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Jiri Kylian's One of a Kind

By Patricia Boccadoro


PARIS, 6 February 1999 - Jiri Kylian, artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater for over twenty years, presented a new, full-length ballet for his company of 24 superb dancers on his third visit to Paris in December.

One of a Kind was commissioned earlier this year by the Dutch Minister of the Interior to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Dutch Constitution. "It is a poem to freedom, a tribute to all the liberties of personal expression", the Czech-born choreographer said.

"I wrote very individual choreography for each member of the company, and Pieter Wispelwey, the Dutch cellist, one of Europe's finest instrumentalists accompanies the work from beginning to end", he continued.

One of a Kind is a rare work of art where there is a total unity between the lighting, the decor, the music and the dance. Everything, including the cello has its proper place on stage.

When the curtain opened, the huge stage at the Palais Garnier was plunged in darkness. Gradually, the dancers, dressed in black justaucorps touched with shimmers of ruby or midnight-blue emerged from the shadows, meeting, then confronting each other, enthralling the spectators in a series of stupendous pas de deux. The richness and inventiveness of the music was surpassed only by the masterly use of a strong classical dance vocabulary.

The dancers, sensuous and supple, classical to the very ends of their finger-tips, moved with eerily light steps across the immense space, sliding, dipping slow movements interspersed by quicksilver, lightning flashes.

Of particular interest was the fact that despite the movements of the women, which were taken up by the men, it was the brilliance of the male dancers which stood out, for the strength and precision of their technique as much as for the fascinating use of contemporary movement.

The music, played directly on stage was written by the Australian Brett Dean, and imperceptibly interspersed with the taped recordings of music by Benjamin Britten, John Cage, David Hykes, Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa, David Lumsdaine, and Chiel Meijering. Calm and grave in its starkly defined beauty, the decor was designed by the Japanese architect, Atsushi Kitagawara, while the lighting was by Michael Simon, a close colleague of Kylian's for many years.

NOTE : Forty-seven year old Kylian, who began working with Nederlands Dans Theater in 1973 will be changing his status with the company, becoming resident choreograph and artistic adviser, leaving him more time to concentrate on his creative work.

"The administration is being taken over by a new appointee", he said, "other hands should guide the troupe now. I'm surrounded by many gifted people, and I'm convinced the company will prosper".

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