Jiri Kylian as one of the most prominent ballet-masters of the twenty-first century is known to perform a wide spectrum of emotions and feelings in his works, which fascinate with their perfection and beauty of movement. No exception is the “performance “Petite Mort”, which was first represented to public in The Nederlands Dans Theater in 1996 and was the part of the so-called “Black & White Ballets”. [Riding, 1999]
The performance consists of the two parts, which are thematically bound. They express the harmonic integrity of the personality and movements, which is accompanied by ideally matching motive by Mozart.
On the whole, analyzing the first part of the ballet from the beginning, we have to point out the appropriateness of the absence of sound accompaniment, which leads the onlooker to concentrate on the pattern of movements the six men perform.
It has to be mentioned, that group ballet without musical accompaniment is rather uneasy task, because each movement and breath has to be worked out in team so as to achieve synchronism and perfection. However, the ballet group managed to overcome the difficulties and dance simultaneously even with no sound.
We should acknowledge the unveiled “hand of the master”, Jiri Kylian, who has succeeded in showing the power of the men at the beginning of his performance. As a matter of fact, these are not only swords, which indicate the strength and beauty of the men, but also a certain set of movements, most of which are quite sharp and confident. From time to time the movements are altering from quick to slow; however, it only amplifies the feeling of men superiority and influence.
When the first notes of Mozart’s Adagio can be heard by the viewer, the picture drastically changes. According to the music, the way the men move alter from sharp to smooth, from confident to insecure.
We cannot but point out the beauty of the tissue raised, which has served a special effect of the cloudy sky or the thick fog (there the onlooker can apply his/her own imagination) and has prepared the viewer to the idea of the “petite mort” in the performance.
Further, there appear new characters, women, which, together with the men, execute a dance of tenderness and harmony, of great affection and, probably, even love. The performance proceeds with the solo dance of one couple, which evokes in the onlooker the same feelings. Without any doubt, a two-person dance is more impressive in terms of concentration of each kind of motion, every muscle movement every touch and gesture. The two-dance is indisputably more intimate and feeling-provoking.
However, the group ballet strikes the onlooker with its own peculiarities. For example, the performance by the same author called “Falling Angels”. Sharp synchronic movements in combination with fully expressed percussion music do not seek for perfection, because they already possess it.
Generally, belonging to the “Black & White Ballets”, which are devoted to eternal issues, the idea of the dance is expressed explicitly clear. The women dancing, who symbolize deprivation, inequality in rights and lack of freedom, are moving with their hands in a way the fallen angels would.
What is more, the lighting plays quite a significant part in interpreting the performance. Having a form of squares directed on each of the eight dancers, the ballet-maker creates an atmosphere of “being caught in a cage, being limited due to our inability to achieve complete perfection or satisfaction.” [Harkarvy, 1994]
Jiri Kylian is indisputably one of the most famous choreographers of our century and deserves this title practically, by having created a lot of such masterpieces, as the two discussed ballet performances.
Harkarvy, Benjamin. “In conversation: Jiri Kylian on the choreographer’s art – Interview”. Dance Magazine. November, 1994
Riding, Alan. “DANCE; With a Celebration Of Dutch Freedom, He Frees Himself”. The New York Times. July 11, 1999
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