Czech National Ballet – the present
The Czech National Ballet in Prague occupies a substantial position in the Central European context. Its founding in 1883 gave rise to the continuous evolutionary tradition of Czech professional dance. A truly cosmopolitan company, the Czech National Ballet is currently made up of 82 dancers of 19 nationalities. This diversity affords it a colourful scale of means of expression, reflecting as it does a variety of ethnicities and their differing natures and temperaments. The result is a blending together of numerous dance schools and styles, mutual enrichment and inspiration.
The Czech National Ballet’s dialogue with global dance theatre has been cultivated over the long term, with this trend having been further developed by its current Artistic Director, Filip Barankiewicz. Ranking among the big players of the European dance scene, the company has enhanced its renown by regularly collaborating with foreign choreographers, coaches, stage directors and designers. The experience with various movement phraseologies serves to spice up the artistic work, helping the company to find its Central European identity.
The Czech National Ballet boasts a variegated repertoire, encompassing traditional classical and modern dance works alike, imbued with a special artistic spirit. It includes productions of major globally celebrated narrative ballets, retelling great stories (John Cranko’s adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Onegin; Márcia Haydée’s The Sleeping Beauty; Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée; and Youri Vàmos’s The Nutcracker – A Christmas Carol), fascinating mixed bills composed of choreographies by contemporary creators shifting the boundaries of modern-day aesthetics (bpm - Artza / Bohemian Gravity / Bill – Eyal Dadon / Yemi A.D. / Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar; Forsythe / Clug / McGregor – The Second Detail / Handman / EDEN | EDEN – William Forsythe / Edward Clug / Wayne McGregor; Phoenix – Puppet / Dos soles solos / Prelude und Liebestod – Alejandro Cerrudo / Douglas Lee / Cayetano Soto; Kylián – Bridges of Time: Bella Figura / Gods and Dogs / Petite Mort / Six Dances – Jiří Kylián), as well as feature-length contemporary ballets (Christian Spuck’s Leonce & Lena; Mauro Bigonzetti’s Kafka: The Trial).
Three engrossing new ballet productions to be presented within the 2022/23 season
The first production to be staged is of John Neumeier’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desires, to music by Sergey Prokofiev and Alfred Schnittke. The very first work by the legendary choreographer to appear in the Czech National Ballet repertoire, it retells Williams’s psychological drama, one of the most critically acclaimed and frequently performed American plays. Neumeier’s A Streetcar Named Desire will receive its Czech premiere on 15 December 2022 at the Estates Theatre. The production will be a new contribution to the Czech National Ballet repertoire in line with its embracing narrative global dance pieces inspired by famed literary works, cases in point in this respect being Kafka: The Trial and Leonce & Lena.
The revival of the adaptation of the widely popular ballet Cinderella by the distinguished French choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot, a major figure of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, attests to another of the Czech National Ballet’s penchants: bringing back on stage acclaimed high-quality works of lasting importance and appeal. In his take on the fabulous story of Cinderella, the creator brings to bear his singular, refined style, reflecting the beauty of modern aesthetics and giving vent to extraordinary energy, permeating all its components: music, visual design, choreography and direction. The revived production of Maillot’s Cinderella will premiere on 23 March 2023 at the National Theatre.
The theatre season will culminate with the premiere of a new revival of La Sylphide. We will stage the Romantic ballet as choreographed by Johan Kobborg. His production is based on August Bournonville’s celebrated adaptation of the original version.
Johan Kobborg gained great acclaim as principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet and The Royal Ballet in London. He has also been a sought-after choreographer and director. His La Sylphide is a tribute to August Bournonville and his style, a vital part of the global cultural heritage.
Czech National Ballet foreign tours
The Czech National Ballet has represented the Czech Republic and spread culture worldwide, yet it has also become a major player in promoting key repertoire ballets and nurturing the global art heritage.
Under its current Artistic director, Filip Barankiewicz, the company has attained great acclaim on foreign tours.
The Czech National Ballet is proud of having had the opportunity to perform abroad works by Jiří Kylián, a Czech native and one of the world’s most distinguished contemporary choreographers, thus interlinking its Central European identity with his legacy.
“I am aware of how much Jiří Kylián means for Czech dancers and audiences. They are proud of his achievements, deeming him a national treasure. Yet Kylián is also a true icon for me and dancers all around the world. He is a remarkable and extremely gifted artist, an inspired creator and a person with a great human dimension. I am happy we could present his works to foreign audiences.”
In this context, we can mention the unique collaboration with the Korean National Ballet in the autumn of 2019, within which the Prague company premiered Kylián’s Gods and Dogs at the Seoul Arts Center. An extraordinary event, and the very first appearance of a Czech ballet company in Korea, it was an occurrence of both cultural and political significance. Representing the Czech Republic and its culture, the Czech National Ballet garnered great acclaim. Subsequently, the Korean National Ballet paid a reciprocal visit to Prague and – for the very first time ever – performed at the National Theatre Kylián´s Forgotten Land, with its members dancing in the production Kylián – Bridges of Time (13, 14, 15, 21 and 22 November 2019).
Jiří Kylián – from the text in the programme booklet:
“Tonight you will see two major dance companies from two very different parts of the world, sharing one stage. This is very unusual and very precious. The distance between Prague and Seoul is 8,258 kilometers ...! But this distance will disappear tonight, because people of many different countries, cultures and religions will share the same space and the same time: The dancers of the Korean National Ballet, directed by Sue-jin Kang, and the dancers of the Czech National Ballet, directed by Filip Barankiewicz. I don't remember anything like this ever happening before, but it is wonderful, and I am happy to be part of it. When I was the artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater, one thing was very clear to me: When politicians fight, artists must communicate. I hope that you will enjoy this experience.”
Jiří Kylián, The Hague, the Netherlands
8 September 2019
Another prestigious event within which the Czech National Ballet presented Kylián’s repertoire, was the tour of Israel in November 2021. The company gave four performances at the Tel Aviv Opera / Performing Arts Center (between 25 and 27 November) of the productions Gods and Dogs, Bella Figura, Petite Mort and Six Dances, which was truly unique on the global scale. What is more, the visit symbolised the return of art and society alike following a pause during the lockdown imposed in consequence of the Covid pandemic – the Czech National Ballet was actually the first foreign company allowed to enter Israel at the time.
“A breath-taking Czech ballet ride.”
David Borek, Czech Television correspondent in Israel and the Middle East
Czech Television report within the Události v kultuře (Culture Events) programme
“When, two year ago, Jiří Kylián was named a member of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris, I thought it would be fantastic to present his work in Israel. And this dream has come true – what is more, amid a difficult time, when until the last moment we were not sure whether it would happen. Yet, also thanks to partners, including airlines, we have ultimately succeeded. I am absolutely delighted that our intention has been materialised, and I feel honoured that the Czech Centre in Israel is part of the project.”
Robert Mikoláš, director of the Czech Centre in Tel Aviv
In 2019, the Czech National Ballet made a grand-scale tour of China. Between 6 October and 3 November, more than 70 of its dancers gave ten performances of the feature-length ballet La Bayadère at theatres in Nanjing, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. The company members also appeared at two magnificent gala evenings.
Over the past few years, the Czech National Ballet has been invited to Spain on several occasions. After the enthusiastic response to its performance of La Bayadère in Seville in January 2019, the company appeared from 26 to 30 May 2021 before packed auditoriums at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, presenting John Cranko’s Swan Lake. Noteworthy is the fact that the Czech National Ballet was the very first company to perform the choreography abroad (the privilege was previously only enjoyed by the Stuttgarter Ballett, for whom Cranko created the piece).
The Czech National Ballet presented another John Cranko production within its visit to Cagliari, Italy, where from 11 to 19 November 2022 it gave eight tumultuously received performances of his version of Romeo and Juliet with the stage design by Jürgen Rose.
“A fascinating and poetic show, arresting, teeming with colour and vitality. The enraptured audience responded with thunderous ovations.”
(TG24.SKY.IT, 12. 11. 2022)
The Czech National Ballet’s repertoire encompasses classics, as well as modern, contemporary works. In August 2017, the company presented Ohad Naharin’s decadanace in Lappeenranta and Tampere, Finland, where it returned two years later to perform productions of Mauro Bigonzetti’s Vertigo and of Katarzyna Kozielska’s Aspects. In June 2019, the Czech National Ballet presented Aspects along with Ondřej Vinklát’s Dumka and Andrey Kaydanovskiy’s Perfect Example in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Moreover, in January 2023, the company gave two performances of Mauro Bigonzetti’s Kafka: The Trial in Bonn, Germany.