Kylián’s travels may be over but his voice still reaches out through his new website

Time was when Jirí Kylián travelled the world, with his own company, Nederlands Dans Theater, or alone, when he visited the many companies eager to add his works to their repertoire.

Now, the choreographer creates his own dance and visual art projects in the Netherlands but seldom leaves his home base.

He was a frequent traveller to Australia in the 1980s and 1990s, but it’s unlikely that he will ever travel there again (although NDT itself will perform at the Sydney Opera House in June with Sweet Dreams and Sarabande, choreographed by Kylián, and Shoot the Moon and SH-BOOM! by choreographers Sol León and Paul Lightfoot.)

That’s a pity, as he was so highly respected by the dancers he worked with at the Australian Ballet and such an eloquent speaker who shared his thoughts generously.

Luckily, he still ‘speaks’ through his own recently launched website (, a treasure trove of information about his 100 or so works, and upcoming performances in 15 different cities around the globe in the next six months.

Kylián’s Bella Figura will be presented by the Australian Ballet in Sydney next April/May and in Melbourne in June.

Almost every artistic director of the Australian Ballet has introduced a Kylián work to the repertoire, starting with Peggy van Praagh in 1978, with Symphony in D; then Marilyn Rowe, with Return to the Strange Land; Maina Gielgud, a major Kylián supporter, with Forgotten Land, Transfigured Night, Sinfonietta, Nuages and Stepping Stones; Ross Stretton, with Bella Figura; and David McAllister, with Petite Mort and Sechs Tanze.

Kylián brought his company to the Melbourne Festival in 1996 where they danced Bella Figura, Fantasia, Whereabouts Unknown, Kammerballett, Sarabande, Falling Angels, No More Play and Petite Mort.

The last four he called his “black and white ballets” and in an interview before the tour he told me they were “black and white sketches to be completed and coloured in the mind and fantasy of the observer”.

On his new website, Kylián describes one of his most popular works, Bella Figura, as “a parable on the relativity of sensuality, beauty and aesthetics in general…it is a journey through time and space, illuminating our dignity, as well as our doubt. Finding beauty in a grimace – in a knot of the mind – or in a physical contortion. It is like trying to perform a balancing act on the string of your umbilical cord”.

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Felicia Palanca and Sarah Peace in Bella Figura, the Australian Ballet, photo © Jeff Busby

Jirí Kylián, photo © Dirk Buwalda