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Jiří Kylián NSW Higher School Certificate Dance Course Study

By Shelly Kelly – An excerpt from the Sept/Oct 2015 issue

Jiří Kylián – Sarabande
In our Sep/Oct issue, High School Dance teacher Shelly Kelly interviews Jiří Kylián because from this year on his 1990 piece Sarabande is set for study in the NSW Higher School Certificate Dance Course.
Shelly states: “What strikes me most about Kylián is the philosophical way in which he communicates his insights and the way he encourages us to think for ourselves when engaging with his works.”
Shelly’s full interview is available in our Sep/Oct issue available from newsagents, dance stores and online

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION AND CONTEXT BEHIND SARABANDE?
The first time we come across the word Sarabanda is in 1539 in a poem by Fernando Guzmán Mexía. It was then described as a frivolous and indecent dance often performed by men in woman’s clothes.

In fact this dance was forbidden in Spain under the rule of the almighty King Philip II. Its music (which we know from its noble and very respectable compositions by J.S.Bach in particular), have nothing to do with its vulgar origin.
I was, and I am a great admirer of Bach since my early teens and I played his piano pieces. But my admiration for Bach was such that I didn’t dare to use his music for any of my choreographies for very many years… It took me 20 years to finally do so. On the 13th of September 1990 it was so. But even then I didn’t dare to use Bach’s music in its original sound ­ I felt the urge to “destroy” it in order to make it more accessible and closer to our human imperfection.

One of the starting points for my choreography actually stems from the Book of Job (14:1-2): “Man born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He comes like a flower and is cut. He disappears like a shadow and does not last.”

Another source of inspiration comes from the Japanese ritual called “Chado” ­ or the “Tea ceremony.” One side of this ceremony represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives, characterised by humility, restraint, simplicity, and profundity. The other side represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally described as worn, weathered, or decayed. But the third element ­ the understanding of “emptiness” was considered to be the most important. It carries the key to our spiritual awakening.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO STUDENTS STUDYING THIS WORK?
Anyone using Sarabande as a starting point for study, should use their fantasy while trying to understand it and never be afraid to come up with controversial ideas, which might be classified as inadequate or dismissed as outright stupid by his or her teachers or classmates.

Not always are the intentions of the creator visible or audible to the audience, but this should never be seen as a barrier. We should try to receive any work of art in a very simple way and never allow it to intimidate us. We should confront the work of art as well as we should allow the work of art to confronts us!

But I think that this “confrontation” should become a challenge for all of us to try and find even the smallest points with which we can identify. We all should try to climb over barriers in order to find what lies behind.

It is this positive curiosity, which makes us all move forward and find unexpected possibilities. My belief is that this barrier should be the hurdle to be taken by the spectators, just as I always try to reach over to all the people who made the effort to come and see my work.

Shelly’s full interview with Jiří Kylián is available for download when you purchase a single issue or a subscription from our online store

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