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Jirí Kylián: Forgotten Memories
Arthaus Musik. $24.99.
Memory, says Jirí Kylián, is very strange, because “there are many things you try to forget and sometimes there are things you try to manipulate.” In the 2011 documentary Jirí Kylián: Forgotten Memories, filmmakers Don Kent and Christian Dumais-Lvowski examine the memories, life, and work of Kylián, the creative force behind Nederlands Dans Theater for decades.
Known for shunning the limelight of publicity, Kylián speaks candidly in this film about the serendipitously timed episodes that catalyzed his talents into a legendary career. As a choreographer, his influence reshaped contemporary dance in Europe. Born in Prague to a banker and a mother who was like “the Czech Shirley Temple,” Kylián began dancing at 9 and entered the Prague Conservatory to study music and dance in 1962. In 1967, he won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London, where he says he was “plunged into the center of world culture.” Riding the artistic high, he returned to the liberal Prague Spring of 1968, only to hear the rumble of Soviet tanks invading the city. “The shock could not be greater,” he says. “The euphoria of the days before and the depression after was just unbelievable.”
Luckily, he had signed a contract to work with John Cranko’s Stuttgart Ballet and on August 28, 1968 took the last train across the border before it was sealed by the Soviets. Cranko encouraged him to choreograph. Then Kylián met his life partner and muse Sabine Kupferberg, who has helped develop the dramatic impetus of his choreography since 1973. She later inspired him to form NDT III, a company of mature dancers that allowed them to be “what they are at that moment of life.”
Interspersed among the details of his biography is revelatory footage of his works, both onstage and in the studio, where he commands with his soft-spoken encouragement and specificity of detail. During a rehearsal of Gods and Dogs, he uses lucid imagery to coach a male dancer who moves from a delicate balance on one leg to a collapsed position: “Feel the arms again still up a little bit—like dropping through a funnel.” In another feverish section, he instructs him that “it’s almost like you’re being attacked by your own hands.” Kylián speaks of how Prague, a city defined both by the luminosity of Mozart and the darkness of Kafka, shaped his artistic sensibility.
Aurélie Cayla and Stefan Zeromski of Nederlands Dans Theater in Kylián’s Wings of Wax. Photo by ©Joris-Jan Bos Photography, Courtesy NDT.
And then there are the works: excerpts from modern classics like Bella Figura, Petite Mort, Vanishing Twin, Symphony of Psalms, and Sinfonietta, which in 1978 provided NDT with open invitations to the world’s stages. (Unfortunately the works are not titled in the documentary, but are referenced in the enclosed written guide.) The choreographer’s signature use of space, bodies propelled by tensile backs, and an exhilarating blend of rhythm and drama are highlighted. In addition to the 52-minute documentary, Kylián’s Wings of Wax, a stark, physically and emotionally dynamic ballet for four NDT couples, is shown in its entirety on the DVD.
Kylián, who turns 65 this month, also answers the critics who question his abstraction of feelings: “I don’t think there is such a thing as abstract dance. Because if you put a human being onstage who loves and hates and has feelings and experiences and is made of blood and bones and skin and has a brain and heart, what is abstract about it?” —Joseph Carman
Paramount Pictures. $19.99.
113 minutes. www.footloosemovie.com.
While accepting a ban on dancing in this day and age requires a suspension of disbelief, a story where dance is the ultimate form of self-expression—with the edge of rebellious fun to boot—makes it easier to swallow for dance lovers. Footloose, directed by Craig Brewer (who had skillfully captured the gritty energy of Hustle & Flow’s hip hop performances in 2005) and choreographed by the ubiquitous Jamal Sims, comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray this month. The reboot of the 1984 classic was first conceived as a blowout musical, but the actual film closely mirrors the original, with just a handful of dance scenes. However, the dance numbers are thoroughly enjoyable. The actor/dancers (familiar faces include So You Think You Can Dance alums Joshua Allen, Ivan Koumaev, and Kayla Radomski, as well as Misha Gabriel and JaQuel Knight) convey a freshness, a shared sense of freedom and youth, whether doing hip hop, jazz, or line dancing.
The film benefits from having real dancers play the leads. Kenny Wormald may not be the most convincing bad boy when delivering lines, but his moves have real angst and power, especially in the line-dancing scene. He has serious bonafides, including dancing with the likes of Justin Timberlake and on Jennifer Lopez’ short-lived reality series Dancelife. He has obviously dialed down his technical skills—as has his costar Julianne Hough. A ballroom dance champion who appeared on Dancing with the Stars before leaving to pursue singing and acting, Hough as a dancer is almost unrecognizable. The film leaves one wishing that the creative team had devised a way to allow her to demonstrate what she can really do. —Kina Poon
Kenny Wormald performs the angst-filled warehouse dance in Footloose. Photo courtesy Paramount.
Two celebrated productions come stateside in all their hi-def glory this month, via Emerging Pictures’ Ballet in Cinema program. First up in movie theaters nationwide is a live relay of the Bolshoi in Le Corsaire, Ratmansky’s version after Petipa, on March 11. This lively, extravagant production—an ideal vehicle for the Bolshoi’s bravura dancers—made its U.S. debut at the Kennedy Center in 2009 to great acclaim. Then on March 22, audiences can catch a simulcast of The Royal Ballet in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, the classic production that filled London’s O2 Arena last summer. Both performances will be rebroadcast in encore screenings. See www.balletincinema.com to find a theater near you (and don’t forget the popcorn!). —K. P.
The Bolshoi’s Maria Alexandrova in Ratmansky’s Le Corsaire. Photo by Damir Yusupov, Courtesy Emerging Pictures.
Dancers can never get enough good information on health and wellness—and body image. Dance Magazine advice columnist Dr. Linda Hamilton posts monthly tips on topics like spring fever, vacation guilt, and time management at Wellness for Performers (www.wellness4performers.com).
Deborah Vogel, a neuromuscular educator who teaches dance at Oberlin College, blogs weekly at The Body Series (www.blog.thebodyseries.com). Vogel, who has shared her expertise in our education section, mainly addresses teachers’ questions on subjects like turnout and how to strengthen feet and legs. But dancers can benefit enormously from reading whatever she has to say—and from watching her clips of stretches and strengthening exercises.
Dance Magazine contributing writer/editor Theresa Ruth Howard (you might also recognize her from our “See and Say” video series) writes passionately about body image at My Body, My Image (www.mybodymyimage.com). Howard draws from her experiences as a professional dancer and ballet teacher to delve into dancers’ hang-ups about their bodies. She aims to approach those issues in a positive way. Coupled with perspectives from mental health professionals and physical therapists, as well as coverage of body image in the fashion and entertainment industries, Howard’s feisty blog is worth bookmarking. —K. P.