About dance, choreography and performance 

Song and dance, the art forms which I call the "naked arts", 
can be performed without any costume or instrument, 
without any extension to our body. They can be produced 
and performed anywhere and at any time. We are born naked, 
without any attributes, and our birth is accompanied by two 
actions: moving and screaming. Our first scream is our first 
song, and our first uncontrolled movement our first dance. 
Such is their essential and primal quality. In the course of 
our life we realize that much of the movement we produce is not 
necessarily rational. And simultaneously we start understanding 
that our physical behavior can be cultivated and organized as a 
procession of moving body shapes - the dance. The value of this 
activity is not determined by its lasting value, but much more by 
its ephemeral and fleeting appearance. Its moving shapes die at 
the very moment they are created, they vanish like a poem 
written in ink which disappears as we write, and they live on 
only in the memory of the dancer’s body. It is always unique, 
and it can never be copied or repeated. Song and dance are 
two siblings, of which dance is perhaps the more personal one. 
We can recognize a human being with our eyes easier than with 
our ears. Our visual reading of a human being is based on reality, 
but our oral perception is more connected to our understanding 
and interpretation. This means that we can be much easier fooled 
by a disguised voice than by a strange physical appearance. 
A human voice can lie quite easily, but our body language cannot. 
This is why our physical appearance is consistently used in a 
multitude of incantations and rituals. Dance and physical 
movement became the basis of virtually all shamanistic rites, 
aiming at helping us to understand our physical reality and 
our relation to the spiritual world as well as to reinforce our 
link to the community which shares our beliefs. 

Our physical expression can assume a multitude of forms, 
representing different states of our mind or psyche. This led to 
the emergence of a very specific genre: The professional dance... 
An organized, cultivated and precisely codified art form. And I 
will try to shed some light on what it means to be a professional 
dancer and choreographer. First of all it requires us to accept 
the fact that our body is actually capable of producing "art" in 
its own right. This simple fact is already a contradiction in itself. 
How can we present our own body as a work of art, being 
painfully aware of all our physical imperfections? Our body is 
generally regarded as an "instrument" capable of producing art, 
but hardly as an "object of art" itself... This might be true, 
but strangely enough, all the imperfections and all the 
contamination we carry within our body are in fact our greatest 
asset. All these deficiencies actually do not disable us, but 
they contribute to our ability to become very unique and individual 
"objects of art". It has been said before, but I say it again: 
the fragility of a dancer is his greatest strength. And although 
most dancers are perfectionists, their personality is not 
determined by perfection, but much rather by a sum of all 
the shortcomings and deficiencies they must deal with all 
their lives. 

Performance -
In our everyday life we spend much time standing in front of 
a mirror staring at ourselves, asking ourselves many rational 
or irrational questions. Dancers do this day in day out, as a 
continuous ritual. This has nothing to do with narcissism or 
self-indulgence. It is an attempt to come to terms with who 
we are... and accept it. To dance in front of an audience is 
a very unusual act, to say the least, and dance performances 
may be perceived as acts of exhibitionism, self-indulgence and 
narcissism... In some instances this might be true, but most 
cases prove quite the opposite. Experiencing dance, whenever 
it speaks to us with its innermost voice, we realize that it is not 
an exhibition, but an act of self-examination and introspection. 
A deeply felt dance performance is capable of touching a 
multitude of our sensibilities like no other art form can.

Choreographers -
Together with the dancers they create "movement" in order to 
"move" an audience. Their collaboration with the interpreters is 
quite unusual, and surely very different from all other creative 
methods. In the process of making dance, they "use” the bodies 
of other people to visualize their fantasy. And yes, they do carry 
out "experiments on living human beings", but they also invest 
much time and energy trying to understand how their bodies, 
their minds and their emotions function.This requires great 
sensitivity from both dancers and choreographers, and a 
shared willingness to contribute freely towards the final result. 
After having accumulated all the necessary information, the 
dancer becomes a "go-between" linking the choreographer and 
the spectator. And hopefully this effort will result in an exchange 
benefiting all participants. This creative process is greatly 
influenced by two facts: The dancer and choreographer must 
create within a very tight and disciplined schedule, meaning 
that they must be "inspired" within a specific time and space. 
This means pressure, and in fact all choreography is created 
under pressure. This creative process does not happen in the 
choreographer’s privacy, but within a studio space filled with 
dancers, assistant and onlookers. Other creative artists are able 
to create in solitude, being confronted by a pen, paper, brush, 
canvas or a slab of marble. Their work is exclusively their 
brainchild. But the actual moment of creating dance doesn't take 
place in the head of the choreographer or in the body of the dancer, 
but in the "meeting time-space" between them. And if this formula 
doesn't work, all their attempts will fail.

Dancers -
In this triangle: "choreographer, dancer, spectator", it is only 
the dancer who is connected to the other two components: 
to the choreographer and the audience. He is a messenger 
between the two. He needs all the necessary information 
and confidence to be able to produce something he can 
believe in, something that touches his sensitivity and 
consequently the sensitivity of the spectator. Perhaps it 
is interesting to realize that the choice to become a dancer 
is accompanied by contrasting forces: His abundance of 
physical energy on one side, and great uncertainty and fear 
of a physical exposure, on the other. (The fact that his 
lifespan is short and intense might also add a seed of 
anxiety into his psyche). Dancers live and function under 
pressure. Their professional experience is tainted by the 
complicated and often difficult process of self-acceptance. 
They spend much time of the day trying to come to terms with 
their physical appearance, faults and deficiencies. And although 
they might feel that they are imprisoned within their body, 
dance gives them the possibility to break out and communicate 
with their surroundings in a deeply human and sometimes 
unconventional way.
About spectators -
Spectators are directly connected to the dancers only. 
The confrontation with dance has a very direct impact. 
Our reaction to it, negative or positive, is usually very 
immediate and spontaneous. Although dance might seem 
to be the counter pole to our "intellectual world", it is in fact 
its Siamese twin, and should be accepted, respected and 
cultivated as such. And no matter how we wish to see or 
appreciate it, it accompanies us all our life continuously, 
from our mother's womb to our tomb. Life is movement and 
movement is life - life is dance. It can invigorate us, and give 
us hope, courage and inspiration. 

What it all means to me -
Dance in its traditional form doesn't use words, but it has 
certainly the ability to convey messages other art forms cannot. 
Compared to language, dance has limitless possibilities of 
expression. A sophisticated language might have a few 
thousand words to its disposal, but only one word for 
something as complex and inexplicable as "love". Dance can 
never be as explicit as language, but it has an endlessly rich 
vocabulary, able to express emotional nuances for which there 
are no words in any of the 6900 languages spoken today. 
Dance has the ability to transmit feelings, complex relations 
or dramatic situations in a short cut. Its briefness, speed and 
lightness can be compared to poetry, and particularly to asian 
short poems, which are able to capture essential philosophical 
or emotional thoughts with just very few words. And equally 
dance can be compared to the art of calligraphy which is also 
a unique witness of one moment of the artists life, and can 
never be repeated. We must not lose touch with our physicality. 
And although I see our existence as one single "comedy of errors", 
I remain an optimist who believes that our physicality gives us 
an opportunity to bring us closer to the roots of our existence. 
It enables us to make fantasy and to laugh and cry about our 
malfunctioning, deficiencies and nothingness. Recently I heard 
someone speak about the art of dance. He talked about making 
a step, then another step, and then learning it all and seeing 
how it all makes some kind of sense. This is surely true, but 
not as simple as that. There is much experience, psychology 
and simply much life, which goes on within us when we make 
steps, when we move and dance, when we choreograph. 
All the activities around us influence us to do what we do... 
Somehow it is our life that is mirrored in all those steps, 
no matter how abstract or how narrative they might be. Every 
step we make inevitably reflects who we are. Dance is not 
only a visual or aesthetic activity, it is an emotional experience. 
We are emotional human beings, whether we like it or not, 
whether we admit it or not. We live our lives, and all our artistic 
output reflects it. Be it painting, sculpture, music, literature, 
poetry or dance. Nietzsche wrote: "I would believe in a God 
who could dance" - and I think I can understand him well...
I realize that I spend much time sitting down and writing 
this article on dance, instead of just moving and dancing, 
like we all should do!

Jiří Kylián - March 2018