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Symphony of Psalms. Jirí Kylián 1978


Symphony of Psalms scene with Patrick the Bana as dancer
  • Choreography: Jirí Kylián
  • Music: Igor Stravinsky (Symphonie de Psaumes; Á la Gloire de Dieu)
  • Sets: William Katz
  • Costumes: Joop Stokvis
  • Light Design: Joop Caboort
  • Staging: Hans Knil
  • Premiered by the Nederlands Dans Theater at Circustheater, Scheveningen, November 24th 1978. Premièred by Compañía Nacional de Danza at Teatro Real, Madrid, November 5th, 1999.
  • Praise Ye the Lord
  • Praise Him with the sound of trumpets
  • Praise Him with the psaltery and harp
  • Praise Him with the timbrel
  • And the dance
  • But, why?

For Stravinsky’s work was never intended to be danced, it is a strong and important musical statement in which one of the main injunctions, to praise in dance, was not fulfilled. So, this choreography was made to merely complete the original concept of the text –to praise the Lord with dance. But what is it that must be praised with this physical prayer? It is more a lament for an imperfect and disunited world in which the suffering and uncertainly of each individual are in ironic dialogue with Stravinsky’s religious score.

The dance is structured like one constantly moving, restless body. No dancer makes an entrance, nor exits from the stage until the darkening end of their last slow parting. The dance pulls them often into the ground in sadness and failures. But they rise, and their lines re-groupand form again with geometric austerity. Yet, on this stage of life, there is tenderness and hope too, the rigid patterns momentarily broken by individual loves and desires, all so humanly vulnerable and transient. It is to the treasuring of humanity and care that this dance gives praise.

Kylián has devised a choreography which totally respects the rectangular shape of conventional stages. It is his symbolic gesture, accepting the limitations which life too imposes on us. But these borders do not necessarily represent a negative reality. They often stimulate our creativity to find freedom and fantasy within the space we were assigned to. This austere and angular concept of the choreography is echoed in the shapes and patterns of the hanging carpets which form the background of this labyrinthine world. These carpets found in the flea markets of Holland are renewed by their transfiguration as an essential part of a production which is, at heart, a celebration of the human spirit’s survival over the world’s materialism.

Christian Harvey

Stamping Ground. Jirí Kylián 1983


Stamping Ground. Dancer: Nacho Duato
  • Choreography: Jirí Kylián
  • Music: Carlos Chávez (Tocata para Instrumentos de Percusión)
  • Set Decoration: Jirí Kylián
  • Costumes: Heidi de Raad
  • Light Design: Joop Caboort
  • Staging: Roslyn Anderson
  • Premiered by Nederlands Dans Theater at the Circustheater, Scheveningen, February 17, 1983. Premiered by Compañía Nacional de Danza at Teatro Lírico Nacional La Zarzuela, Madrid, December 23, 1991.

The Australian Aboriginals are the only remaining people of a stone age culture left undisturbed by the accident of geography for some 50.000 years. The first intrusion upon them began little more than two hundred years ago. And even since then geography has helped to preserve much of their way of life, because their vast continent offered an almost limitless retreat. So, for the anthropologist they hold a key to our distant past. And for the dancer too, because their understanding of the infinitely wide world in which they lived was always most potently expressed in dance of unique significance.

That dance, which is at the centre of their life, and in which every gradation of movement had a descriptive and intended meaning, is now in decline. But it may still be glimpsed in the reserved areas of the country where trival life continues. Kylián says he has always had "a particular admiration for aboriginal dance, because of its beauty, reality, expressiveness and importance in life and society". And in 1980, he was invited to a gathering called by the tribes in the remaining tribal lands of Northern Australia, the purpose of which was to record whatever has remained of it before it will be lost in the inevitable social changes of the twenty-first century. This work is one of the consequences of that visit and of his opportunity to study the extraordinary techniques of aboriginal dance. Kylián makes no attempt here to reproduce the rites of this dance.

This indeed would not be tolerated because the dance itself is regarded as a personal possession of the dancer, which, if used by another, would be both theft and sacrilege. Instead, he has attempted to devise a new vocabulary of his own in parallel with their concepts. Stamping Ground was developed in close collaboration with each individual dancer, making use of their specific personalities and their instincts in relation to time, space and to each other. "The dancers", Kylián says, "should discover and materialize with a touch of self-mockery, the animal within themselves."

Stepping Stones. Jirí Kylián 1991

  • Stepping Stones. Dancers: Patrick de Bana and África Guzmán
  • Choreography: Jirí Kylián 
  • Music: Cage/Webern 
  • Costumes: Joke Visser 
  • Stage and Light Design: Michael Simon
  • World premiered by the Stuttgart Ballet in Stuttgart on the 23rd November, 1991. Premiered by Compañía Nacional de Danza at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, Madrid on the 8th December, 1993.

Stepping Stones refers to Kylián's experiences with the Aborigines. He considers this work to be a choreographic study, based on the respect for the passing on of cultural traditions from father to son and as a homage to the past. In the twenty years that Jirí Kylián's work has been performed in The Netherlands, he has shown a command of a wide range of styles. An important source of inspiration was his experience in Arnhemland on the North coast of Australia, where in 1980 he attended a two week Aboriginal dance festival. He was astounded by the enormous freedom of movement of the indigeous population and the importance the community attached to dance. His experience was crystallised in Nomads (1981) and Stamping Ground (1983). The impact of this encounter can still be seen in Kylián's work today. Stepping Stones is an enigmatic piece which at the same time possesses enormous lucidity, as a critic of the Stuttgarter Zeitung wrote after the premiere, adding wistfully: "If only such masterly, contemporary choreographers were billed more often".

Wing of Wax. Jirí Kylián 1997


Wing of Wax. Stage with a tree
  • Choreography: Jirí Kylián.
  • Music: Heinrich von Biber (Mystery Sonatas -Passacaglia for solo violin- (1676); John Cage Meditation Music – Prelude for Meditation for prepared piano- (1946/48) (Edition Peters, London); Philip Glass, String Quartet no 5 -Movement III- (1991), Johann Sebastian Bach, Variatio no. 25, Adagio, in g-minor, (arranged for string trio by Dimitri Sitkovetsky) from Goldberg Variationen, BWV 988 (1742).
  • Costumes, Joke Visser.
  • Sets and Light design: Michael Simon
  • Light Technical Adaptation: Kees Tjebbes. Staging, Roslyn Anderson
  • World premiere by Nederlands Dans Theater at Lucent Danstheater, Den Haag, January 23th 1997. Premiered by Compañía Nacional de Danza at Teatro Calderón, Valladolid, May 17th 2007.

Wings of Wax by opens with a fascinating dramatic image: a bare tree, hanging crown downwards with its roots in the air above the stage. Around it a low -slung spotlight traces a huge circle. The dancers, in tight dark costumes, emerge out of the black background, only to be absorbed back into it again. Jirí Kylián has succeeded in creating a work of great beauty and expressiveness. He shows he can do magic with movements. Never predictable, never forced, his movements are nevertheless so complicated that the eye can hardly follow all that is happening.

Petite Mort. Jirí Kylián 1991


Petit More. Contemporary Dance Partners
  • Choreography: Jirí Kylián
  • Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Piano Concerto in A Major -KV 488-, Adagio, Piano Concerto in C Major -KV 467-, Andante)
  • Costumes: Joke Visser
  • Settings and Light Design: Joop Caboort
  • Staging: Roslyn Anderson
  • World premiere by Nederlands Dans Theater at Salzburg Festival, 23rd August, 1991. Premiered by Compañía Nacional de Danza at Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria, Santander, 16th November 1995.

The prestigious Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián relies again on the Spanish groupto perform one of his most impressive choreographies. This is the work Petite Mort that was staged for the first time by the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1991. Jirí Kylián created this ballet especially for the Salzburg Festival in commemoration of the second centenary of Mozart´s death. For this work he chose the slow tempos of two of Mozart´s most beautiful and popular piano concertos. "This deliberate choice should not be seen as a provocation or thoughtlessness, but as my personal way to acknowledge the fact that I am living and working in a world where nothing is sacred, and where brutality and arbitrariness are commonplaces. This work should convey the idea of two ancient torsos, their heads and limbs cut off - evidence of a deliberate mutilation - however unable to destroy their beauty, thus reflecting the spiritual power of their creator".

The choreography presents six men, six women and six foils. The foils play the role of dancing partners and sometimes seem to be more rebellious and obstinate than a partner of flesh and blood. They visualize a simbolism which is more real than a line of argument. Agression, sexuality, energy, silence, foolishness and vulnerability - all those elements play a significant role. Petite Mort, which literally means small death, is also a euphemism for orgasm in languages such as French and Arabic. 

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