Jiří Kylián

Jiří Kylián


Photo: Anton Corbijn

The world-renowned choreographer Jiří Kylián (Czechoslovakia, 1947) has been artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater for nearly a quarter century.

He started his dance career at the age of nine, at the School of the National Ballet in Prague. In 1962 he was accepted as a student at the Prague Conservatory. He left Prague when he received a scholarship for the Royal Ballet School in London in 1967.  After this, he left to join the Stuttgart Ballett led by John Cranko. Kylián made his debut as a choreographer here with Paradox for the Noverre Gesellschaft. After having made three ballets for Nederlands Dans Theater (Viewers, Stoolgame and La Cathédrale Engloutie), he became artistic director of the company in 1975. In 1978 he put Nederlands Dans Theater on the international map with Sinfonietta. That same year, together with Carel Birnie, he founded Nederlands Dans Theater II, which served as a bridge between school and professional company life and was meant to give young dancers the opportunity to develop their skills and talents and to function as a breeding ground for young talent. He also initiated Nederlands Dans Theater III in 1991, the company for older dancers, above forty years of age. This three dimensional structure was unique in the world of dance. After an extraordinary record of service, Kylián handed over the artistic leadership in 1999, but remained associated to the dance company as house choreographer until December 2009.

Jiří Kylián has created nearly 100 works of which many are performed all over the world. Kylián has not only made works for Nederlands Dans Theater, but also for the Stuttgart Ballet, the Paris Opéra Ballet, Bayerisches Staatsoper Münich, Swedish television and the Tokyo Ballet. Kylián has worked with many creative personalities of international stature – composers: Arne Nordheim (”Ariadne” 1979), Toru Takemitsu (”Dream Time” 1983) – designers: Walter Nobbe (”Sinfonietta” 1978), Bill Katz (”Symphony of Psalms” 1978), John Macfarlane (“Forgotten Land” 1980), Michael Simon (”Stepping Stones” 1991), Atsushi Kitagawara (”One of a Kind” 1998), Susumu Shingu (”Toss of a Dice” 2005), Yoshiki Hishinuma (‘’Zugvögel’’ 2009).

To this day, Kylián’s masterpieces are frequently performed by numerous dance companies and schools around the world.

We don’t know how much time is left for us, to be able to say whatever we need to say. We will never know the value of the statements which we have left on our small planet, how incredibly tiny they are whenever measured up against endlessness and infinity.

Jiří Kylián

In the summer of 2006, together with Film Director, Boris Paval Conen, he created the film Car-Men. It was choreographed “on location” on the surface brown coal mines of the Czech Republic. In 2010, Kylián served as Mentor in Dance in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. In 2013, together with Boris Paval Conen and NTR, he created the film Between Entrance & Exit which was nominated as one of the contestants for the ‘Gouden Kalf’ award during the Dutch Film Festival in Utrecht. For the Aichi Trienalle 2013 in Nagoya, Japan, he created the full-evening dance/film production, East Shadow, which was dedicated to the victims of the Tsunami in Japan. Together with the Czech film director, Jan Maliř, he made the films Schwarzfahrer (2014) and his most recent film Scalamare (2017) which was filmed on the steps of the famous Monumento ai Caduti in Ancona, Italy.


In the course of his career, Kylián received many international awards including: “Officer of the Orange Order”- Netherlands, “Honorary Doctorate” – Julliard School New York, three “Nijinsky Awards” – Monte Carlo (best choreographer, company and work), “Benoit de la Dance” – Moscow and Berlin, “Honorary Medal” of the President of the Czech Republic, “Commander of the Legion d’honneur” France, and in 2008 he was distinguished with one of the highest royal honours, the Medal of the Order for Arts and Science of the House of Orange given to him by Her Majesty the Queen Beatrix from the Netherlands. Kylián received the Lifetime Achievement Award in the field of dance and theater by the Czech Ministry of Culture in Prague and in this same year the documentary Forgotten Memories received the Czech Television Award. During the Celebrating Kylian! Festival in 2017, Kylián received the prestigious gold penning as honorary citizen of The Hague, the Netherlands. In September 2017, Kylián was awarded with the honorary Life Time Achievement Prize, the Positano Premia La Danza Léonide Massine Award. In March 2019 Kylián was inaugurated as a member of the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris. This highly prestigious recognition was complimented with the Academy’s decision to change its statutes and add a special seat for ‘dance’. In September 2021, Kyliàn received the Gratias Agit Award in Prague for extraordinary achievements in advocacy of Czech culture, heritage and language.