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Digital programme book ‘Celebrating an evening with Jiří Kylián!’


Dear friends,

We are delighted to welcome you to a new NDT-season with this unique program, Celebrating an evening with Jiří Kylián!

On the occasion of Jiří Kylián’s 75th birthday, we celebrate this inspired maker with an evening of three significant works that speak to his artistic vision over time. Tar and Feathers (2006), Gods and Dogs (2008), and Bella Figura (1995) were created for Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) and are exemplary of Kylián’s extraordinary craft and contribution to dance and the development of this company. Kylián’s indelible creative impact ripples in the hearts and minds of the dancers, audiences, and artists who have the privilege of collaborating with him or seeing one of his many works.

Staging this program has been a gift for us as a company and a transformative experience that has expanded us artistically. A heartfelt thank you to Jiří for creating these remarkable works and entrusting us with them. We would also like to thank our collaborators for their passion, care, and expertise and our incredible NDT team for their beautiful work and courage.

We look forward to seeing you throughout the season. Thank you for joining us tonight. Enjoy!

Emily Molnar
Artistic Director

'Bella Figura' by Jiří Kylián. Dancers: Genevieve O'Keeffe, Rebecca Horner. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos

Tar and Feathers

Dancers: Luca Tessarini, Jon Bond, Nicole Ward, Anna Bekirova, Scott Fowler. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos
For Sabine

Choreography by Jiří Kylián

Lorraine Blouin & Stefan Zeromski

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Pianoconcert Nr. 9 (K 271) in Es-Majeur Le Jeunehomme (1777): Deel 2 Andantino.
Dirk Haubrich: additional composition
Tomoko Mukaiyama: improvisations

Samuel Beckett: What is the word (1989). Licensed by Curtis Brown on behalf of the Samuel Beckett Estate

Jiří Kylián

Tomoko Mukaiyama

Miikki Kunttu (original design), Kees Tjebbes (re-design, Oslo 2011)

Jiří Kylián

Joke Visser

Tamako Akiyama

March 9, 2006, Lucent Danstheater, The Hague, NDT 1

25 minutes

With special thanks to:

Dancers: Scott Fowler, Thalia Crymble. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

“Tar and Feathers” was a horrific punishment! In a typical tar-and-feathers attack, the mob’s victim was stripped to his waist. Hot tar was either poured or painted onto the person while he (or she) was immobilized. Then the victim either had feathers thrown on him or was rolled around in a pile of feathers so they stuck to his body. Often the victim was then paraded around town on a cart. The aim was to inflict enough pain and humiliation on a person to make him either conform his behavior to the mob’s demands or be driven from town.

This is the origin of my “inspiration” – but my work has gone through many metamorphosis since the time I started thinking of the project.

If we look at the two materials used as the attributes used in this “ritual”, we can easily see that “tar” is a black sticky substance bound by gravity  and “feathers” are fragile white objects associated with lightness and elevation….!

My work, is a metaphor of the “Unbearable lightness” and the “Unbearable weight” of our being on our tiny planet….
Our life very often resembles a person with a “Lead weight” chained to his ankle, and yet holding a flying “Balloon” in his hands, soon to be torn apart by the two contrasting forces.

In “Tar and Feathers”, I have been inspired by the last poem Samuel Beckett ever wrote.
It is entitled: “What is the word?”
And this very question: “What is the WORD” is the question of a man who mastered “The Words” in two languages – English and French.
In 1969 he received a “Nobel prize for literature”.
And yet, with his last breath he asks: “….what is the word….?”
None of us will ever know “The Word” – or what this word should represent….?

Our lives are defined by the “laws of gravity” and the “laws of elevation” – physically, philosophically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally….
It is surely not easy to accept and even embrace these light and dark forces in equal measure, but they are inevitable because they need each other and we should try  to understand and accept them as such.
They are the two inseparable twins – they are “Yin and Yang”.

Jiří Kylián –  17th of February 2013

Gods and Dogs

Dancers: Nicole Ishimaru, Chuck Jones. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.
An unfinished work

Choreography by Jiří Kylián

Urtzi Aranburu

Jiří Kylián: concept, Dirk Haubrich: composition.
Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet Opus 18, Nr.1 in F-major [1799]; Movement II, Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato

Kees Tjebbes

Jiří Kylián

Joke Visser

Tatsuo Unemi, Daniel Bisig

Dag Johan Haugerud, Cecilie Semec

Emily Molnar & Lucas Crandall

November 13, 2008, Lucent Danstheater, The Hague, NDT 2

24 minutes

Dancer: Surimu Fukushi. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

On Clothes, Costumes and Bandages –

We are born naked – with no protection to face life – First clothes we experience are diapers (If we are lucky).
Later on, we are dressed in anything, which is given to us, forced upon us, or which we have inherited from older brothers or sisters.
They protect us from sun and cold and they cover our nudity.
Later in life, we try to influence the way our body is covered by begging and screaming, to convince our parents or foster parents, to supply us with clothes, which would help our self esteem, or at least give us a slightly dignified look, providing us with some respect from a highly critical and often merciless circle of children surrounding us.
Later, when we are able to pay for our own clothes, we face more difficulty, as we must start making our own choices, and we begin to understand, that by covering our body in different ways, we can enhance or even change our personality, and by doing that we can also change our standing within the society we live in.
Unfortunately, we are not well enough equipped to face these challenges. It all becomes a very intriguing but often deceitful undertaking.
We are easily seduced by trends and fashion, influenced by friends, lovers and family, or made to abide the rules of religions, beliefs, sexual orientation and other convictions.
Later in our lives, we encounter illness (mental or physical), when we have to dress our wounds of life (mental or physical) when our body (physical or spiritual) cannot support our daily routine, we need clothes which enable us to do this.
The clothes, (all kinds of supports, bandages, old age diapers etc.) which we put on whenever we are ill, injured or disabled , reveal to everybody, that we are vulnerable, so we are actually an easy prey, easy to be taken advantage of, or be targeted and attacked. But this state of vulnerability might also create a more unusual circumstance under which this garment represents a certain kind of “stigma” or some sort of a “symbolic” value, elevating us to higher spiritual grounds (the loin cloth of Jesus, the shroud of Gandhi or the clothes pilgrims would wear on their journey….).

Dancers love to dress in rags. Their daily wear is of great psychological significance and has much to do with their individual superstitions. No matter how casual their outfits look, they are never chosen by chance. They hide or reveal their body as well as their momentary mental, physical or emotional state allows them.
In the community of artists, dancers always appear to be the fittest – physically and mentally – but the contrary is true. They are more prone to injury – mental, physical or emotional – than any of their artistic colleagues, because they are obliged to exhibit their own body as a work of art !
Surely, I don’t reveal any great secrets, when I say, that none of us was born perfect. We inherit physical strength and resilience , but also weaknesses, or our mental capacity with all its loopholes – inevitably our emotional armoury will reveal cracks, but – we all must live with this heritage from the moment we scream for the first time, until silence.
In the course of our life, psychological twists and turns, acquired or inherited and illnesses will become our constant companions.  And then – suddenly – after having breathed so much life, after being inspired by so many adventures, after being intoxicated by so much living – suddenly, we are declared sick, ill, deranged or dysfunctional.
It is this border, between “normality and insanity”, between “health and sickness” and all the norms which determine the one or the other, which fascinates me.
It can be diagnosed at any moment of our life. But where is exactly this moment, which will ultimately push us over the invisible border into the dark world of insanity and illness, and who will be the “Determinator….?”
It is more than clear to me that I am not the first or the last person to ask these questions, and I think that every emerging generation should re-examine and redefine the borders and the twilight zones of insanity and illness.
But regardless of the borders, within which these human conditions will be confined, surely no positive developments can ever be accomplished without the help of a healthy portion of madness.

Jiří Kylián – November 2008

Bella Figura

Dancers: Charlie Skuy, Rebecca Horner. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

Choreography by Jiří Kylián

Cora Bos-Kroese & Stefan Zeromski

Lukas Foss: Lento (fifth movement), Andante (third movement) from Salomon Rossi Suite (1975).© Editions Salabert, Parijs / Albersen Verhuur B.V.,‘s- Gravenhage. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater (opening), Quando Corpus (ending) from Stabat Mater.
Alessandro Marcello: Adagio from hobo-concerto in D-minor.
Antonio Vivaldi: Andante from: Concert for 2 mandolines and strings.
Giuseppe Torelli: Grave from Concerto grosso, 8 nr. 6 (1698)

Jiří Kylián (original concept), Tom Bevoort (realization)

Kees Tjebbes

Jiří Kylián

Joke Visser

Francesca Caroti

October 12, 1995, AT&T Danstheater The Hague, NDT 1

30 minutes

Dancer: Genevieve O'Keeffe. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

The basic idea, as well as all the building material, with which “BELLA FIGURA” was made, is not very complicated, but, maybe not so simple either, whenever viewed through the perspective of our experience. It is a “Parable” on the relativity of sensuality, beauty and aesthetics in general, and on the question, how we face the phenomenon in our everyday life. 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.
For the dancers, it is not only a manifestation of their competence, aesthetic qualities or technical accomplishment, but equally, it represents their acceptance of their deficiencies, doubts and vulnerability.

The words “Bella Figura” in Italian don’t only stand for “Beautiful body”, they also represent a philosophical resilience of people facing a difficult situation – consequently it also means “Putting on a brave face”….

With other words: The people in the audience will not know, whether the actor ,who is performing for them tonight, is in a difficult situation or not, they will not know anything about his personal problems, but the actor also knows, that they don’t know! All he knows is, that they bought tickets to see him, and that they want to be “entertained”. So he puts on his “Bella Figura”. He puts on his “Brave face”, no matter what….

For a long time, I have asked myself the questions: “…. What is a performance, and who are actually the performers?”  And…. “ When does the performance actually begin? Does it begin when the curtain raises, or at the moment of our birth – or does it all only start when the choreographer asks the dancers to learn their first steps? Does the performance start when the dancers start putting on their make-up?”   And….” Does the show finish whenever they leave the stage, or does it carry on until the end of our lives?”   Or….” What is the difference between the clothes, we wear in the street, and the stage costume? Where lies the border between art and artificiality, and where should we draw the line between fantasy and reality?”….And finally: “….Where is the border between the truth and a lie….”

This “World in between”, this “Twilight zone” in which different feelings and experiences mingle, produces the kind of tension or alchemy, that interests me. It creates a world in which all kinds of realities ( rational or fantastic ) merge in the most unpredictable and surreal way.

Can you imagine, that you stand on the edge of a dream…you are in total darkness, and you stare into a bright sharp light, with your eyes closed, and you doubt every moment of our so called “reality”. And when you open your eyes, you realize that your dream entered you life, and has become a part of your so called “real world”.

In any case – all these things, which I have just tried to describe to you, can be explained in a much easier way: Imagine that you had a dream, in which you fell out of your bed, and as you wake up next morning, you realize, that you have a broken rib.

Jiří Kylián – Den Haag, September 23, 2007


The world-renowned choreographer Jiří Kylián (Czechoslovakia) was the artistic director of NDT for nearly a quarter century. He remained house choreographer until 2009. Kylián’s exceeding body of work counts 100 creations to date, of which no less than 75 were especially created for NDT. Numerous dance companies and schools around the world frequently perform Kylián’s masterpieces. Kylián has received many prestigious, international awards and honours, among which an election as foreign associate member of the prestigious French Académie des Beaux-Arts, for the newly founded choreography section of the Academy.

Read the full biography

Portrait: Anton Corbijn

Thalia on Tar and Feathers:

From beginning to end I am on this trip filled with extremes. My stomach is twisted in knots, my mouth won’t let words escape, I feel my body caught between discovering itself and being trapped by time. 

Outside of this inner conflict, I see the giant piano stretched into the air. From up high her notes press me further and further into the blackness until I eventually lie still. 


I have to pull myself out of this dream. Away from the dark edge. The end isn’t here yet. I lean into my heart but I am caught once more.”

Thalia in 'Tar and Feathers'. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

Surimu on Gods and Dogs:

“I danced this ballet back in Zurich before I joined NDT in 2015, and it made a huge impact on my life. In fact, it was one of the main reasons why I wanted to dance for this company.

To me, Gods and Dogs is about the madness that exists below the surface of normality, like a set of traumatized personalities that live under your skin in a constant barking fight, while you are burning away until you disappear completely. It’s been a pleasure to revisit this work and dive even deeper into this complex role after seven years, after gaining more experience as a dancer and as a human being living this life.”

Surimu in 'Gods and Dogs'. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

Aram on Gods and Dogs:

“I remember one rehearsal during the creation process of Gods and Dogs like it was yesterday. For some reason we had to rehearse on a Sunday, the vibe was somewhat relaxed and playful. And with my brilliant, original partner Riley Watts, work seemed a lot less scary. It was our very first creation in NDT 2 and I for one looking back could never really believe the honor of being part of this universe that the master of choreography created. On said day after we had worked a bit, Mr. Kylian sat down on the floor, inviting us for a chat. He then brought up CERN and how many people seemed to be terrified that with the new particle accelerator having their first experiment, we and the whole world would cease to exist.
I think about this every time we immerse ourselves into this universe of beauty and absurdity. I don’t know why, perhaps because it feels like the dog and god-like heavy beats allow you to be oblivious to “reality” and truly indulge into your own version of it.”

Aram as member of the original cast in 'Gods and Dogs'. Photo: Daisy Komen.

Theophilus on Bella Figura:

“At the beginning of the rehearsing process for Bella Figura, I went home one day thinking about the piece, the steps, and the quality of movement. Not being sure about the musicality in one part, I searched for the music ‘Stabat Mater’ from Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.

I started listening to it with the intention of finding the correct musicality, but I only found myself after 40 minutes, totally immersed in the video of a full concert from Nathalie Stutzmann as the conductor, Philippe Jaroussky as countertenor and Emöke Barath as the soprano. Instead of only listening to the part we dance, I watched the whole concert. I was mesmerized by the beauty of this piece, the music, the musicians, the singers, and the conductor.

That was the moment I understood how much responsibility we have. Jiří Kylián’s choreography is a masterpiece, and it’s perfect for the music; and as dancers, we need to live up to the challenge. We need to take what has been given to us and make it into something that doesn’t just sit next to each other but amplifies what both, music and choreography have to offer.

Bella Figura has been taking me on an inspiring journey, where all the elements complement each other and where I constantly search for the best I can give.”

Theophilus together with Fay van Baar in 'Bella Figura'. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

Luca on Tar and Feathers and Bella Figura:

“It is not only the past two and half months of work that I have put into this evening, this celebration – theatrically stating infact, it is the entire course of my career that I have had the privilege to put to use for this program. Celebrating an evening with Jiří Kylián! has a humbling sense of full-circle for me.

My start, let’s call it the “real start”, was with the John Cranko-School in Stuttgart, linked to the Stuttgart Ballet, where Kylián hadn’t only danced himself but where he had also created some of his first works.

Revisiting Bella Figura for a second round after my first time in 2020 is giving me the chance to shift my perspective and focus on how I have evolved and changed as an artist myself over the course of the past three seasons. To dive into the world of Tar and Feathers has been nothing short of exhilarating. The fact that I get to do that so intimately close with Nicole Ward, one of my closest friends, has been a beautiful learning curve in every way imaginable.

Our first premiere of season 2022-2023 is called Celebrating an evening with Jiří Kylián! and oh, are we celebrating! A blessing of a start to my seventh season with NDT 1. Jiří brings along a phenomenal team of NDT-icons and original cast members who we have gotten to work with everyday for this triple-bill. Stefan, Cora, Lorraine and Urtzi – true forces of nature and profound inspirations in bringing history into the future.

It would have been an easier task if I would have been able to invite you all into the studio to witness first hand, what the company has been delivering day in and day out. I am incredibly humbled and inspired by my colleagues’ dedication and passion on a daily basis and truly grateful to share the stage with them night after night.

I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve, even though I’ll be dancing only half clothed for most of the evening.

I bow down and am grateful.”

Luca together with Nicole Ishimaru in 'Bella Figura'. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos.

Artistic staff NDT 1

Tamako Akyiama

Rehearsal director NDT 1

Francesca Caroti

Artistic advisor & rehearsal director NDT 1

Lucas Crandall

Artistic co-ordinator & rehearsal director NDT 1

Photo gallery

'Tar and Feathers' by Jiří Kylián. Dancers: Jon Bond, Anna Bekirova. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos
'Gods and Dogs' by Jiří Kylián. Dancers: Pamela Campos, Surimu Fukushi. Photo: Joris-Jan Bos

View more photos in the gallery