Why did you say yes to becoming associate
artist in Lyon?
I started working with the Lyon Opera Ballet in
the early 1980s, when Françoise Adret was the
director of the company, so it’s a long tradition for
me. The current artistic director, Yorgos Loukos,
simply asked me to take a more prominent role.
How much time will you spend in Lyon?
We’re still negotiating the plan, but it won’t be as
regular as you might think. I won’t be there every
month. The company will present existing ballets,
including the ones that are already in the repertoire,
and I will also present works that I made for older
dancers and a photography exhibition, Free Fall.
You have exactly 100 works for the stage
listed on your website. Do you have any plans
to make new ones?
For now, no. I’m concentrating on film and
photography. But once a choreographer, always
a choreographer. The danger that I will start cho-
reographing again is great. [Laughs]
What prompted that shift towards photogra-
phy and film?
I’m interested in the tension between what is alive
and what is dead, like photos and film. I’m very
old now, I’m almost 70, so death is coming, it is
closer to me. Even the photos that I make have
some kind of choreography in them, however. I
was busy making movement all my life, and I call
my images frozen choreography.
You’ve also completed two short films this
year, including Oskar for Les Ballets de Monte-
You can get closer to faces with film. Onstage,
you can be a fantastic dancer, but you’re still
removed from the public. I’m interested in work-
ing with older dancers, including my partner of
43 years, Sabine Kupferberg. Their faces speak of
incredible experience. They are like a map of the
world, with so much written inside.
You’ve withdrawn your works from the rep-
ertoire of Nederlands Dans Theater for three
years, until 2017. Will they be reintroduced
There are no plans to reintroduce my work to
the repertoire, and I encourage that. They’re
doing fantastically well, and they should keep
going the way they have. Before the Kylián period at NDT, there was a Glen Tetley and Hans
van Manen period, and now it’s a new one—
the company has always renewed itself and
been at the forefront of dance’s development.
I didn’t want to hang there like an ever-present
Have you taken any steps for the long-term
preservation of your work?
All my work is digitalized. It’s not for my own
glory—when I go, I want to make sure that there
is good information available, so that people who
are interested in what happened can have truthful
news | 10 MINUTES WITH...
on a new role.
BY LAURA CAPPELLE
At 69, Jiří Kylián is back in a leadership role in
ballet. In 2009, he parted ways with Nederlands
Dans Theater after 24 years as artistic director and
another decade as resident choreographer; the
company shelved his works entirely in 2014. The
Czech luminary has since stopped making new
pieces for the stage to focus on film and photography, but his blend of classical lines and contemporary fluidity remains a cornerstone of neoclassical ballet worldwide. Starting this season, it will
have a new home at the Lyon Opera Ballet, where
Kylián is taking up a position as associate artist
with a three-year contract.