Dance of life

Contemporary dance is pumping to the pulse of J iri Kylian, as Edinburgh Festival audiences are soon to discover. But the Kylian beat will go on

f Mark Morris and Michael Clark are the bad boys of 20th century dance then .liri Kylian artistic director of the world- renowned Nederlands Dans Theater is a saint. complete with halo. Shaggy-haired Morris sealed choreographic superstar status with a laddish penchant for beer. fags and partying. Shaven-headcd shockmeister Clark booked his spot in the dance hall of fame with a Molotov cocktail of lewd. sometimes nude behaviour on-stage. and a drug habit.

Kylian however. has smoothed his path onto the list of Great Choreographers Of Our Time with no rock ‘n‘ roll lifestyle habits whatsoever. For 2| years this apparently understated. Prague-born dance maestro and all-round nice bloke has ruled the roost at Nederlands Dans Theater ( N DT). The company has not visited the UK under Kylian‘s directorship. so the man and his work have evaded Morris-style adulation here. In continental Europe. though. the mild- mannered. softly-spoken Czech is Mr Big.

18 The List 9-l5 Aug I996

long after the dance maestro takes his final bow, writes Ellie Carr.

Jlrl Kylian: tortysomethlng and proud

Over there. where contemporary dance companies are many and up-for-anything. Kylian‘s NDT has long been a well moored ship in a sea of creative madness. While barrier- breaking ‘Euro-crashers’ have come and gone with seasonal fashions. NDT has delivered big. beautiful. slow-burning contemporary dance year after year. Blending classical and contemporary techniques with drive and energy. Kylian‘s dance straddled late-20th century dance styles with sophistication and ease.

When Britain‘s contemporary dance super- company Rambert was seeking a sexy number to brand its relaunch programme in I993. it chose Kylian‘s Petite Mort. Sporting supple. sumptuous 90 miles per hour dancing and acres of well-muscled flesh. Rambert was back on track. joining almost every major dance company in the world by having at least one Kylian piece in rep.

And that‘s only half the story. The other half of Kylian’s brilliant career has been spent

attempting to divert the kamikaze course of a dance world where dancers start young. burn out early and have no time to pause in between.

Back at NDT base camp in The Hague. Amsterdam. three companies work under one roof. The main company. NDTI. numbering 32 dancers at physical peak; the junior company. NDT2 and NDT3. a small group ofdancers over 40 years old. the lost generation usually consigned to the scrap-heap.

In the post ballet-boom years where there are fewer corps dc ballets for seventeen-year-old signets to join. junior companies that feed bigger parent companies are commonplace. Employment for dancers over 40 is. however. harder to find.

Kylian. who is 49. is clearly not impressed: ‘When you direct a company for as long as l have. you realise the incredible waste of talent.‘ he says. ‘Someonc is heading for their 40s and cannot fulfil the demands of the main company. but at the same time they have accumulated fantastic qualities and skills.‘

At NDT3 dancers otherwise perceived as over the hill work well into their twilight years. but Kylian is still upset by the wastage he sees elsewhere. Referring to the famous choreographer whose quest for perfection drove dancers to starvation. drugs and even plastic surgery. Kylian says: ‘Much as I admired Balanchine. I‘m afraid he was much responsible

‘The mental strength of the dancer is the foremost quality. You can have certain technical skills, but it you mentally do not support what the company is about then you can wrap up and go.’

for always moving to the younger generation. Once you were past 25 he was already looking to the eighteen-ycar-olds. lt‘s damaging to dance. and denies it the chance to be seen in its entire spectrum.‘

Kylian‘s choreography demands dancers with intense physical expertise. but those who are dumb. assembly line tools of the trade hold no sway. ‘The mental strength of the dancer is the foremost quality.‘ he insists. ‘You can have certain technical skills. but if you mentally do not support what the company is about then you can wrap up and go.‘ Kylian may have the best interests of the world‘s dancers at heart. but he‘s no pussy cat.

Neither is he an old dog ofdance. uuarding his patch as some veteran directors do. ‘l‘m not one of those directors who‘ll be sitting there till he dies.‘ he says. ‘lf there‘s a talent. one is obliged to give it time and space.‘

Testimony to this is the show NDTI brings to Edinburgh in its first UK visit in over twenty years. Originally both programmes were all- Kylian affairs with choice works from across the last two decades. But in a last-minute change Kylian‘s untitled new work was swapped for Start To Finis/r by company member Paul Lightfoot. a native Brit who choreographs to The Cranberries(Kylian prefers Mozart and Bach).

Every inch the proud mentor. Kylian says: ‘I think for British audiences it will be great to see there is someone who carries the flag and who is genuinely exciting and original. He‘s very special and I‘m very happy to have him around.‘ Maybe .liri Kylian is a pussycat after all.

Mixed pmgmmmes (Festival) Nederlands Dans Theme]: Edinburgh Play/rouse. 0/3 I 225 5 756, l3—I6 Aug, 7.30pm, £5—£22.