Jiří Kylián
Foto: Anton Corbijn

Jiří Kylián


Jiří Kylián (1947) was born in Prague, in former Czechoslovakia, where he started dancing at the age of nine. In 1962, he was accepted for the conservatoire in Prague, and in 1967 he received a scholarship for the Royal Ballet School, in London. On completing his training, he joined Stuttgarter Ballett, at the personal invitation of John Cranko, who was artistic director at the time. Two years later, Kylián made his debut as a choreographer with the ballet Paradox, created for Noverre Gesellschaft, Stuttgarter Ballett’s platform for the presentation of work by talented youngsters.

This was followed by various choreographic works, and in 1973 Kylián was invited by Nederlands Dans Theater to create his first work in the Netherlands. After making another two works for Nederlands Dans Theater, he was invited to become artistic director of the company – initially alongside Hans Knill. In 1979, together with Carel Birnie, he founded NDT 2, a group that bridges the gap between school and a professional company for young dancers, giving them the opportunity to develop their skills and talents. In 1991, he also founded NDT 3, a company for older dancers over the age of forty. This three-dimensional structure (of NDT 1, NDT 2 and NDT 3) was unique in the dance world. In 1999, Kylián gave up his position as artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater, but remained with the company as resident choreographer until December 2009.

Kylián has created nearly a hundred works, many of which are performed all over the world. Besides works for Nederlands Dans Theater, he also choreographed various works for other companies, including Stuttgarter Ballett,Ballet de l’Opéra national de Paris, Bayerisches Staatsballett München and Tokyo Ballet. Kylián also collaborated with film director Boris Paval Conen on creating the film Car-Men, worked with NTR on the film Between Entrance & Exit and produced the full-length dance/film production East Shadow, which was dedicated to the victims of the tsunami in Japan in 2011. In 2017, he created Scalamare, a short film inspired by and located on the famous steps of the Monumento ai caduti in Ancona, Italy.

Kylián has worked with many internationally renowned creative makers, including composers Arne Nordheim and Toru Takemitsu, and designers Walter Nobbe, Bill Katz, John Macfarlane, Michael Simon, Atsushi Kitagawara, Susumu Shingu and Yoshiki Hishinuma.

Over the course of his career, Kylián has received many Dutch and international awards, including an Honorary Doctorate from The Juilliard School (New York), a Sir Laurence Olivier Award (for Psalmensymfonie), three Nijinsky Awards for best choreographer, company and work, two Benois de la Danse awards, a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award from the Venice Biennale, and an Honorary Medal from the president of the Czech Republic. He was also appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1995, and Chevalier of the French Légion d’Honneur in 2004. In 2008, he also received one of the highest royal honours of the Netherlands: the Honorary Medal for Art and Science of the House Order of Orange, which was presented to him by Queen Beatrix. In 2017, Kylián was made an honorary citizen of The Hague by mayor Pauline Krikke, and awarded the city’s Gold Badge of Honour. In 2018, Kylián was appointed an associated international member of the prestigious French Académie des Beaux-Arts, at a grand ceremony in Paris.

In the programme Dancing Dutch, which will premiere on 30 March 2024, Dutch National Ballet will be giving its first ever performance of a work by Jiří Kylián: Wings of Wax.