Dancer and choreographer Jiří Kylián was born in 1947 
in Prague - Czechoslovakia, to his father Václav who was 
a banker (born in a very simple village family, but 
later in life he became the first economist, and finally 
the director of the largest "Savings Bank" of the country) 
and to his mother Markéta, (who in her young age was 
a dancer-child protégée, and who managed to sell out 
theaters at the age of 10).

Needless to say, that in the post war Czechoslovakia, 
it was highly unusual and hardly acceptable for a young boy 
to choose dance as his profession. But in the early days 
dance was not his first priority. His first love was circus, 
and after his grandmother Štěpánka took him to see 
the famous "Circus Busch", he decided to become an acrobat, 
and spent a considerable time learning this profession. 
When this school for acrobats had to close, Jiří's mother 
took him to see his first ballet performance! 
The experience was overwhelming, and had a decisive 
influence on his future. At the age of 9, he became a student 
at the "School of the National Ballet Prague". There he made 
his first attempts to create small choreographies for his 
colleague students. They were neither performed or even 

In 1962 he was accepted as a student to the Prague Conservatory. 
Although this era was totally controlled by the omnipresent 
communist party, many of the teachers were excellent, 
as their own education was firmly rooted in the very liberal 
and fiercely democratic pre-war Czechoslovakia. One teacher, 
who left a deep mark on Jiří's professional development, 
was Zora Šemberová, who is known for her world first 
interpretation of Juliet (1938) in Prokofiev’s famous ballet.
She was the kind of person who treasured truthfulness on stage, 
as well as in real life, above anything.

In the framework of the Prague Conservatoire two first 
choreographies by Jiři were seen for the first time:  
(”Nine eighth’s” choreographed to jazz music and ”Quartet” - 
to music by Béla Bártok.)

Czechoslovakia in the sixties (although totally in the grip 
of the communists) had created interesting cultural diversity, 
which was very unique and rich, with important connections 
to the western "free world". It was in 1967, that he had received 
a scholarship to study at the "Royal Ballet School" in London, 
the true cultural center of the world of that time (Hippies, Beatles, 
Nureyev, Fonteyn, and everything else.....). This scholarship 
was organized by Jennie Lee, the Arts Minister of UK at that time.

There he met the choreographer John Cranko, who offered him 
a contract, to become a member of the highly acclaimed
"Stuttgart Ballett". Before taking up his contract, he returned
to Prague for a short summer holiday. In the meantime, 
Czechoslovakia started its process of reformation of 
the communist regime under the leadership of Alexander Dubček.
On the 21st of August 1968, the invasion of the communist  
"Warsaw-Pact " forces began. On the 28th of August, 
after taking part in many demonstrations against the occupation, 
he left for Germany. The attempt of Dubček and his supporters, 
to create a "Socialism with a human face" was crushed.

The Stuttgart Ballett under the direction of Cranko, 
was one of the most celebrated companies of that time. 
Cranko himself was a man of free spirit, and a great communicator.
Many interesting personalities took refuge under his wings.
He was not afraid of rivalry and made his company available
to established choreographers (Kenneth MacMillan, Glen Tetley..) 
or to young choreographers just starting their careers.

It was in the "Noverre Gesellschaft" (the testing ground for 
young talent, which organized annual choreographic workshops), 
for which Kylian made his first work entitled "Paradox". 

Later Cranko asked him to create works for official premières 
for the main company. His first work was "Kommen und Gehen", 
created with Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun. In 1971, 
Cranko decided to create the so-called "Noverre Company", 
which had the task to provide dance accompaniment to operas 
and operettas. He asked Kylián to supply this company with 
contemporary dance repertoire. ("Incantations", "Einzelgänger", 
"Blaue Haut").
In the early 70’s, Cranko had invited Glen Tetley to become
a resident choreographer in Stuttgart. Tetley's work made 
an enormous impression on Kylián. Tetley was an intellectual,
just as Cranko was, but his approach to dance was totally different. 
His understanding of movement, and its relation to space, 
was a revelation to Kylián.
In 1973, after a very successful tour to the U.S.A., Cranko's 
sudden death at the age of 46, left the Stuttgart Ballet in disarray. 
The company scrambled to preserve Cranko's legacy and at the 
same time tried to find its way into the future. Kylián had stayed in 
Stuttgart under various directions including Glen Tetley's, 
in order to help bridge the difficult time after that terrible 
loss. In 1974 he created ”Return to a Strange Land”, dedicated 
to John’s memory. But he knew, that an eventual departure was 

It was in the early seventies, that NDT was on tour in Stuttgart. 
They saw Kylián's work, and they were interested. 
Their invitation resulted in the choreography entitled "Viewers" 
in 1973. (Paradoxically, Cranko supplied this music to Kylián 
by handing him an LP, with the words: ”Maybe one day 
you can do something with it.....")
After creating two more works for NDT ("Stoolgame" and
"La Cathédrale Engloutie") the offer to become artistic 
co-director of NDT, together with Hans Knill, had arrived. 
NDT was one of the most innovative dance companies of Europe,  
enjoying great success practically from the beginning (1959). 
But after the departure of their two foremost choreographers, 
Hans van Manen and Glen Tetley, it was in decline. 
It was clear that the very foundation of the company had to be 

The most influential figure of NDT at that time was its
founder and managing director, Carel Birnie. He was a
powerful figure, who liked to control all aspects of the running 
of the company. This fact lead inevitably to certain unease 
between the artistic and administrative directors.

The years of struggle, which followed, have largely subsided 
with the creation of "Sinfonietta", which Kylián had created to 
music of his co-patriot Leoš Janáček for the "Charleston Festival" 
in the USA (1978). The positive spirit of "Sinfonietta" led to its 
overwhelming success and opened many doors to NDT, 
which were closed until that time. Kylián saw the need to 
create large ensemble works, which would consolidate the 
new ambitions of the company (“Symphony of Psalms” 1978), 
as well as intimate pieces celebrating individuality 
(“Silent Cries”, 1986, dedicated to his longtime partner 
Sabine Kupferberg).
Many important international tours have taken place: 
On its extensive travels, NDT performed in the most 
diverse places including the Prague National Theater, 
the Metropolitan Opera House, the Paris Opera or a 
Kibbutz Theater in Israel. The company traveled to countries 
with established democratic systems, or to countries with 
oppressive political regimes. We have done that, in order to 
speak to the audiences directly, leaving any political differences 

NDT’s guest appearance in communist Czechoslovakia, 
in the "Prague Spring Festival" in 1982, was an important 
breakthrough of political dimension. Not only was the success 
overwhelming, but more importantly, the public with its 
long standing ovation, decided to send a message to 
the authorities stating that anybody should have the freedom
to make a career abroad, return home, whenever he likes, 
and be allowed to show his work without any restrictions.

In the early eighties, Kylián’s longtime interest in the culture 
of the Australian aboriginal people inspired the largest 
tribal gathering ever held in Australia. This powerful experience 
left a profound mark on him, and had a direct or indirect 
influence on creations that followed (”Stamping Ground” and 
”Dream Time”, 1983). In the meantime NDT became a refuge 
for many creative people. In order to accommodate their need 
to express themselves, NDT started organizing so called
"Christmas Cabarets" which were not only hysterically funny, 
but they also served as a platform allowing criticism of the artistic, 
or administrative direction, or simply as a ground, on which 
any personal wishes or frustrations could be heard.
These "Christmas Cabarets" soon became "Choreographic 
Workshops", the new testing ground for young talent. 
Many choreographers, artistic directors or teachers, 
active in many places around the world now, have created 
their first works here.

Realizing the importance of education of young dancers,
Carel Birnie and Jiří Kylián have decided to create 
a new company- NDT II, in which young people would get 
the opportunity to develop their skills and talents 
in a period of two years, in order to become members
of the main company of NDT (NDT I) or to find work elsewhere. 
Works like: ”27’52”, “Sleepless”, "Gods and Dogs" or "Chapeau"
were especially designed for these young people. In the years 
between 1980-2000, NDT became an important place, where 
some of the most interesting creators produced their works:
At that time, the artistic policy of the company had 
three main aims:
1) The invitation of some of the finest young choreographic
    talent from around the world: William Forsythe, Mats Ek, 
    Christopher Bruce, Ohad Naharin and many others.
2) The inclusion of new creations by internationally recognized 
    contemporary masters (Hans van Manen, Glen Tetley....).
3) Last, but certainly not least, the encouragement of creativity 
    within the company's own ranks. The choreographic workshops 
    became the breeding ground for many future choreographers
    such as:
    Paul Lightfoot & Sol León,
    Lukáš Timulák,
    Patrick Delcroix, 
    Medhi Walerski,
    Jorma Elo, 
    Karine Guizzo,
    Megumi Nakamura, 
    Cora Bos-Kroese, 
    Alexander Ekman, 
    Václav Kuneš, 
    Jérôme Meyer & Isabelle Chaffaud...
    or artistic directors: 
    Nacho Duato - Compañia Nacional de Danza (Spain), 
                          Michailovski Ballet (Russia), 
    Johan Inger - Cullberg Ballet (Sweden),
    Ed Wubbe - Scapino Ballet Rotterdam (Holland), 
    Philip Taylor - Theater am Gärtnerplatz (Germany),
    Lionel Hoche - MéMé BaNjO (France), 
    Mário Radačovský - National Ballet (Slovakia),
    James Vincent - Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (USA), 
    Jo Kanamori - Noism 08 (Japan),                                                    
    Catherine Allard - I.T. Dansa (Spain).

After many years of directorship, Kylián saw the departure 
of many fine and interesting performers. Dancers, who could
no longer take part in the current repertoire of the company, 
but who posess a powerful personality, stage-presence, 
charisma, and the great gift to communicate with the public 
in the most basic human way. It was in 1990, that he decided 
to create a small group for dancers, who find themselves in 
the precarious age between "forty and death". The world 
premiere of this “Senior Company” was created by 
Hans van Manen, Mats Ek, William Forsythe and Jiří Kylián. 
The original dancers were: Sabine Kupferberg, Alida Chase, 
Gérard Lemaitre and Niklas Ek. The importance of this new 
development in dance was instantly recognized by the public,
as well as by the media.

Many choreographers of international stature have understood
the importance of this new development, and have generously 
contributed to its rich and diverse repertoire: 
    Hans van Manen, William Forsythe, Mats Ek, 
    Maurice Béjart, Maguy Marin, Ohad Naharin, 
    Jennifer Muller, Christopher Bruce, Martha Clarke, 
    Carolyn Carlson, Nacho Duato, Paul Lightfoot, 
    Robert Wilson, Erik Vos, Patrick Delcroix, Johan Inger, 
    Shusaku Takeuchi, Susanne Linke, Paulo Ribeiro, 
    Meryl Tankard, Michael Schumacher and many others...

With its unique, three-dimensional structure, 
    NDT I - mature dancers, 
    NDT II - young dancers, 
    NDT III - senior dancers, 
and with the building of its own theater, 1987, (designed 
by Rem Koolhaas), NDT has become different from 
any other dance company in the world, and was recognized 
as such by being given various prestigious awards. 

To commemorate the company’s 35th anniversary Kylián 
designed a special performance, making use of 
all three companies, entitled "Arcimboldo"(1995). 
Many talented people of NDT contributed to this production 
and its success. Sadly, shortly before the premiere 
Carel Birnie had died.

In 1999, Kylián has passed the artistic direction to 
the new generation. He stayed connected to the company 
as a choreographer until December 2009. In the years 
between 1973 and today he has created 74 ballets for NDT. 
His entire body of work counts 98 creations to date. Besides 
creating for NDT, Kylián has made original works for 
the Stuttgart Ballet, Paris Opera, Swedish Television, 
Bayerisches Staatsballett München and the Tokyo Ballet. 
His creations are danced by more than 100 companies 
and schools world-wide.
He has worked with many creative personalities of
international stature;
-  Composers: Arne Nordheim (”Ariadne” 1979), 
   Tōru Takemitsu (”Dream Time” 1983),
   Dirk Haubrich created 16 scores for the latest 
   creations by Kylián.
-  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),
   Joke Visser created costumes for more than forty of 
   Kylián's works and Kees Tjebbes made light designs 
   for many of his creations.
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 NTR, 
he worked together with Boris Paval Conen again and created 
the film BETWEEN ENTRANCE & EXIT which was nominated as 
one of the contestants for the ‘Gouden Kalf’ award during 
the Dutch Film Festival 2013 in Utrecht. For the Aichi 
Triennale in Nagoya, Japan, he created the full-evening 
dance/film production, EAST SHADOW which was dedicated 
to the victims of the Tsunami in Japan in 2011. Together with 
the Czech Film Director, Jan Maliř, he made the films 
SCHWARZFAHRER (2014) and his newest 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 national 
and international awards including: 
"Commander of the Legion d'honneur" France, 
“Golden Lyon Award” in Venice,
"Officer of the Orange Order"- Netherlands. 
"Honorary Doctorate" - Julliard School New York and Prague. 
Three "Nijinsky Awards" - Monte Carlo 
(best choreographer, company and work "One of a Kind"), 
Two "Benoit de la Dance" awards - Moscow and Berlin. 
"Honorary Medal" from Václav Havel, the President of the 
Czech Republic and a cultural award for “Art and Science” 
from Beatrix - Queen of the Netherlands.
In 2011, 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 Televistion Award. In 2017, Kylián received 
the prestigious gold penning as honorary citizen of The Hague, 
the Netherlands. Also in 2017, Jiri Kylian was awarded the 
Lifetime Achievement Prize entitled the Positano Premia la Danza
Léonide Massine Prize. This is the oldest dance award in the world.
In September 2021, Kyliàn received the Gratias Agit Award in Prague 
for extraordinary achievements in advocacy of Czech culture, 
heritage and language.

In March 2019 Kylián was invited to become a member of the 
French Académie des Beaux Arts. For this occasion a new 
category of Choreography was created. The inauguration was 
accompanied by the barock ensemble “Les Art Florissants” lead 
by William Christie, the singers Kate Lindsey and Alex Rosen and 
by a solo performed by Sabine Kupferberg. The inauguration 
speech was held by Hugues Gall.

For your convenience, we provide common information about 
Jiří Kylián and Kylián Productions BV as downloadable PDF 

Jiří Kylián - Awards (PDF)