Sinfonietta

“Sinfonietta” is perhaps the most spontaneous and “Innocent” 
work of mine - this is not by aim, but because of the extremely 
limited time and conditions in which it was created. 
The company was “floating” at that time and had no definite 
plans even for the nearest future. There was unrest among 
the dancers and I had very little experience to deal with the 
situation. At that time I was 31 years of age. During this time 
I received a telephone call from Joseph Wishy, (The director 
of the Charleston Festival at that time, in the summer of 1978), 
who had asked me whether I had ever heard of the composer 
named Leoš Janáček? I answered, that I knew him since my 
studies at the Conservatoire in Prague (I started studying 
there in September of 1962) and that I always wanted to 
create a choreography to the music of his glorious “Sinfonietta”, 
but that I never had the courage to use this music, as the task 
seemed to me to be filled with such an enormous responsibility. 
But I felt that I knew Janáček’s music inside out (I have forced 
my pour friends to listen to this music over and over again). 

At that time, NDT was not well organized institution and 
Carel Birnie, the founding administrative director of the company 
advised me not to accept the offer to choreograph this work for 
the Charleston Festival, because he knew, that the production 
time, which was at our disposal, was extremely limited. Tickled 
by a sense of adventure and feeling that the time was right, 
I didn’t listen to the advise and I said “yes”. 


Walter Nobbe, the costume and decor designer of “Sinfonietta”, 
held my hand when I took the decision, in order to demonstrate 
his support. Sold to the devil - now we had to make it. 
Rehearsing whilst on tour in Israel, asking de dancers to work 
overtime and myself making impossible hours, we made it. 
And the result certainly reflects the spontaneity and spirit in 
which it was created, conditioned by the lack of time and the 
feeling of having to perform an impossible “balancing act”. 
But, by any account, the effect it had on the people who saw 
it first was quite remarkable. The audience which was present 
at the premiere in Charleston USA in the summer of 1978, was 
unable hear the last “Fanfare” of the music, because they 
already stood on top of their chairs, cheering and throwing 
the program books into the air. This was the moment that 
totally changed NDT. 

“Sinfonietta” - this work in which simplicity is one of its major 
characteristics, has torn the company out of depression and 
obscurity. It became a “Cornerstone” of the repertoire of the 
“Nederlands Dans Theater”, opening endless new possibilities 
for the company's future. 

     							Jiří Kylián