Jiří Kylián (b. 1947) is an original, talented choreographer, as well as a dancer and artistic director. He studied first at the Prague Conservatoire and then at the Royal Ballet school. He joined the Stuttgart Ballet in 1968 where he became a soloist. He has worked with the great South African choreographer and ballet director John Cranko, architect of the Stuttgart Ballet who recognised Kylián as a major talent.
Kylián’s choreographies distinguished themselves by the special fluency of movement. His style combined the precision of classical ballet with the expression and muscularity of modern dance. The movements and figures he created, developed in a seamless connection with the music where the individual dancers appeared as if built into its patterns, swirling in eloquent, expressive groups and lyrical, beautifully sculpted pas de deux. His early works were not in a narrative format but they told of a wide range of emotions, possibly most noticeable in his Field Mass (1980) to music from Martinů and Heart’s Labyrinth 1 (1984) to music from Schoenberg, Webern and Dvořák. In more recent years, Kylián has changed his style. He has deliberately broken and disrupted his fluency by introducing more angular movements and abrupt gestures, as well as surreal theatrical elements to express complex ideas. His ballets are abstract in the sense that they do not have a narrative structure but they continue to tell us about emotions, conflict and Kylián’s own thoughts on topics that have always troubled humans in general, such as the meaning of life, death, birthdays and relationships.