Contemporary Choreographer

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Jiří Kylián was born in 1947 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to his father Václav who was a banker and to his mother Markéta, who was as a young teenager a dancer-child protégée.

Initially inspired by the acrobatic performances of the Circus Busch [de], Kylián decided to pursue professional ballet training at the School of the National Ballet Prague at the age of 9, after having seen a ballet performance for the first time. Kylián was admitted to the Prague conservatory in 1962. Here, he encountered one of his mentors, teacher and former dancer Zora Šemberová, “who left a deep mark in Jiří’s professional development”. At the conservatory Kylián made his first steps as a choreographer with Nine Eighth’s, choreographed to jazz music, and Quartet, to music by Béla Bartók. In 1967, Kylián received a scholarship to study at the Royal Ballet School in London. Among other artists, Kylián met choreographer John Cranko, who offered him to join the Stuttgart Ballet.

He joined the Stuttgart Ballet in 1968 and worked under Cranko, where he began to work as a choreographer. At Stuttgart Ballet Kylián started choreographing with Paradox (1970), Kommen und Gehen(1970), and continued in the Stuttgart Ballet’s Noverre Kompanie with Incantations (1971), Einzelgänger(1972) and Blaue Haut (1974), among others.

Three years after the death of Cranko (1973), Kylián became Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) in 1976. His best known works for NDT include Symphony of Psalms (1978), Stamping Ground (1983), Dream Time (1983), and Silent Cries (1986). His style included exploration of the limitations and capabilities of space, body parts, entrances and exits, contrasts, and humor.

Both Jiří Kylián’s works created in 1983, Stamping Ground and Dream Time, were inspired by his personal interests and travels to Aboriginal Australia, as documented by director Hans Hulscher in the documentary, Road to the Stamping Ground. Aboriginal ceremonial dances are used as blueprints within the work Stamping Ground, which included among its original cast Nacho Duato and Jim Vincent.

During Kylián’s directorship at the NDT, a second company for younger dancers was created, Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (NDT II).

In 1992, he started a chamber company for dancers over 40, Nederlands Dans Theater 3 (NDT III).


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