Dance review: Bridges of Time

The Czech National Ballet honored choreographer Jiri Kylian, aiming to present the diversity of his works and showcase some of his more popular dances.

'Bella Figura' (photo credit: SERGEJ GHERCIU)
'Bella Figura'
(photo credit: SERGEJ GHERCIU)

The evening Bridges of Time, performed by the Czech National Ballet was an homage to celebrated Czech-born choreographer Jiri Kylian, one of the renowned European choreographers. His international career soared after he settled in Holland and ran NDT company from the mid-seventies and onwards. At this point in time, the European contemporary dance scene had captured the world’s attention as it witnessed the rise of groundbreaking artists like Kylian, Pina Busch, William Forsythe, Mats Ek and more; all of whom affected the global dance scene.

This particular evening was composed of four short works; part of Kylian’s rich repertoire, aiming to present the diversity of his works and showcase some of his more popular dances that were choreographed between 1986 to 2008.

The program opened with Bella Figura, with its perplexing and striking visuals that enhanced the intricacy of Kylian’s compositions. The prelude opened with an illusion of a semi-nude female dancer who seemed to sit in mid-air, legs crossed above ground while being hugged by the theater’s heavy curtain. Later, a memorable mixed group of bare chest dancers moved in unison while their red layered skirts swayed rhythmically. At one point a couple of dancers let the skirts drop to their ankles, looking as if they were standing in pools of blood.

The next two works: Gods and Dogs, followed by Petite Mort (French: orgasm), were perfect examples of Kylian’s brilliant encompassing comprehension of the human body, its corporal mechanism along with his acute sensitivity to the endless sets of emotions, fears and passions; the materials that he used to challenge dancers and spectators alike when he constructed his choreographies. His artistic language aimed to stretch his craft’s borders, without resorting to crude resolutions. He used his balletic roots as a foundation that could support the structure of his choice.

Kylian’s Six Dances (1986) is a popular and humorous crowd-pleaser, and for that reason was chosen to close the evening. It provoked smiles and giggles from viewers’ lips. Perhaps a few also recalled the time they saw this piece performed by Batsheva dancers years ago. In retrospect, Six Dances was perhaps the weaker link, in the otherwise delightful contemporary ballet treat.

 Czech national ballet (credit: SERGEJ GHERCIU) Czech national ballet (credit: SERGEJ GHERCIU)

Groundbreaking as he was, Kylian didn’t aim for a dialogue with avant-garde trends, but composed his specific artistic jargon, based on his recognizable attributes. His art contained gracefulness and daring with high-voltage vitality spiced by wry humor, and often quite stimulating.

Fortunately, we were introduced to an impressive company, with many incredibly able, talented and graceful dancers that apparently could sense, relate and interpret Kylian’s intentions. What a beautiful spectacle it was.