Rückkehr Ins Fremde Land / Return to a Strange Land This work is directly linked to the tragic and dramatic death of John Cranko, and it is dedicated to him. It was in the summer of 1973 - on a flight from the USA back to our “home” Stuttgart, after a very successful tour, when John fell seriously ill. We were supposed to make a landing at the Shannon Airport in Ireland (the obligatory stop in order to refuel the aircraft) but the weather was extremely bad, so that the airplane had to be diverted to Dublin. This “Diversion” took only half an hour, but this half hour also “Diverted” John Cranko’s fortune…. He died in the ambulance on the way from the airfield to the hospital in Dublin on the 26th of June 1973…. There is much for which I should thank him…. He was very generous in giving me the opportunity to pursue my choreographic ambitions. He made time and space available for us to create. But the most wonderful fact was, that he enjoyed discussing all kinds of new developments in art with us, important or unimportant, and in this way he gave us the opportunity to have memorable fights with him about it all….But all this arguing had nothing to do with winning or losing - much more it was an important learning process. And I have learned and learned…. Here is one of my dearest memories of Cranko - In fact it is a very simple sentence which he said in a documentary dedicated to his “boss”, Walter Erich Schäfer, the “Intendant” of the “Württemberg State Theatre” at that time. They entered a rehearsal studio in which I have rehearsed my first choreography “Kommen und Gehen”.
Herr Schäfer asked John Cranko: “ Do you think that Kylián will become a new Cranko? ” and Cranko answered: ” No, I hope that he will become Kylián…. ” The work is dedicated to him, his legacy and his memory. Inevitably, the title “Return to a Strange Land” has a transcendental meaning. But there were many more images on my mind at the time of its creation. One of them was the simple fact that many of us leave the place of our origin, and when we return back to it years later, we only find a “Strange Land”, a place which we knew before but do not recognise any more. But the very original idea of this work lies in our understanding, that human beings are created by a set of circumstances, conditions and coincidences, which are very much beyond our control….! Our body consists of an endless number of particles, whose origin we will never know or understand, because they were collected - God knows where, and God knows by whom - in order to become “Us”…. We live for a while, and then we fall apart in order to re-enter this “Strange Land” from which we came….All the particles we consist of will go back to the “land” which should be familiar to us…. only - we do not recognise it because we never consciously knew it…. Jiří Kylián