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Jiří Kylián, between lights and shadows

On September 27,  Jiří Kylián presented, as a première in France ,– at Subsistances in Lyon – his choreagraphic piece called East Shadow. Created in 2013 following a commission by the Aichi triennial, as a dual tribute to Samuel Beckett and the tsunami victims of 2011 in Japan, this ‘ story as simple and banal as possible ‘ was performed two ex-dancers from the Nederlands Dans Theater, Gary Chryst and Sabine Kupferberg . The latter who is both Kylian’s muse and life partner was also given pride of place in the photographic installation  Free Fall exhibited at the same venue.
Here’s an interview with a great multi-talented creator. (lire en français)

Danser Canal Historique : Besides being a choreographer, you now make films and photo installations. What do video and images bring to you ?

Jiří Kylián : Video and photography have two properties which are similar: they have the possibility of a « close up » - (to see the face in all its detail), and they stop the process of « aging », because they « stop the time ». Like a guillotine, they cut into our life into two parts : into what was, and what will be. They in fact stop the time. It might sound strange to hear this from my mouth, because all my life I was occupied with the most ephemeral of all art forms - the dance, but I very much appreciate its « frozen » quality in film and photography.

DCH : Time is among one of your favourite subject matters when making ballets. Would you say that an image is a more relevant time-stopping element than an actual performance?

Jiří Kylián : There are a few major topics, which are important and enigmatic to all of us. That is why they are the subjects of many works of art. They are : Time, Speed and Aging on one side and of course Love and Death on the other. Pictures can pretend that they have the power to « stop the time », but this is their clever deception, because we need time to look at them....

DCH : Your latest movie Scalamare is a marvellous visual poem. How did it come about and how did you create it ?

Jiří Kylián : I saw the « Monument for the dead soldiers » in Ancona (in Italia). It is an extraordinary place. What you see is a vast set of white steps descending into the ocean. On these steps you see your own shadow dissected into abstract rectangular shapes. The questions of life and death lie right there at your feet. All we see is people reflecting light and casting shadows. (And film is only about these two qualities). It is a very poetic place, which made me contemplate about the fleeting and fugitive fate of human beings....

DCH : Each one of your works seems to reveal something about you, much like a « weather report » chronicling your various emotional states. How would you describe the one you’re in at the present time ?

Jiří Kylián : Talking about weather - I love all weather, and I never complain about it....! I can say only one thing about my personal life and my work : all my work is influenced by the experiences I made in my life, like the work of every other artists - of course, but I try to make it accessible to the spectators by speaking in a generally understood language.

DCH : Could one particular event or performer give you the urge to go back to actual choreography ?

Jiří Kylián : Possibly - Lately I have spent much time working with older people, simply because I find the
life written in their bodies and faces so very interesting. But sometimes very young people carry some kind of a strange wisdom within them, and should I encounter such person sometime in the future... who knows…?!

DCH : Aside from No more Play ( to be performed in April 2018) will you be transmitting other pieces of your repertoire to the Lyon Opera Ballet where you work as associate artist until 2019 ?

Jiří Kylián :There are quite a few projects planned with Yorgos Loukos for the Ballet de l'Opéra de Lyon. Next season, the company will dance Wings of Wax, Gods and Dogs, Falling Angel et 14’20.

Interview by Isabelle Calabre.



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