He is an excellent Czech dancer, choreographer, and ballet director. Born in Prague, he became a student of the School of the National Ballet Prague at the age of 9. In 1962 he enrolled in the Prague Conservatory. He left his home city in 1967 after receiving a scholarship to study at the Royal Ballet School in London. Later he joined the Stuttgart Ballet led by John Cranko, where he debuted as choreographer with Paradox, commissioned by the Noverre Gesellschaft. Having created three ballets for the Nederlands Dans Theater in The Hague (Viewers, Stoolgame, La Cathédrale Engloutie), he became the company’s artistic director in 1975. In 1978 his Sinfonietta became an international success and the Nederlands Dans Theater won world-wide recognition. In the same year Kylián set up, together with Carel Birnie, the Nederlands Dans Theater 2 as a bridge between school and professionl career for young dancers, whcih soon became a talent hotbed. Then, in 1991, Kylián launched yet another company, Nederlands Dans Theater 3, for dancers over forty. This formula, integrating three companies, was unique internationally.
After an extraordinarily successful period of intense artistic work, in 1999 Kylián resigned as the Nederlands Dans Theater’s artistic director, remaining the company’s choreographer for the next 10 years. He created almost 100 choreographies, many of which have been later staged around the world. He created also for the Stuttgart Ballet, the Ballet of the Paris Opera, the Bavarian State Opera, Swedish Television, and the Tokyo Ballet.
He collaborated with a range of prominent artists of international standing, such as composers Arne Nordheim (Ariadna, 1997) and Toru Takemitsu (Dream Time, 1983) and designers Walter Nobbe (Sinfonietta, 1978), Bill Katz (Symphony of Psalms, 1978), John Macfarlane (Forgotten Land, 1980), Michael Simon (Stepping Stones, 1991), Atsushi Kitagawara (One of a Kind, 1998), Susumu Shingu (Toss of a Dice, 2005) and Yoshiki Hishinuma (Zugvögel, 2009). In 2006 roku he worked with director Boris Paval Conen on the film Car Men, shot at a brown coal mine in the Czech Republic. In 2010 he was a dance mentor with the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. In 2013, together with the NTR television channel, he made the film Between Entrance & Exit, which received a nomination for the Gouden Kalf Award during the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht (2013). He also worked on a large-scale film production titled East Shadow, devoted to the victims of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, for Aichi Trienalle in Nagoi.
In the course of his career, Kylián received many awards, including the Officer Cross of the Order of Oranje-Nassau (the Netherlands), Honorary Doctorate of the Julliard School in New York, three Nijinky Awards for the best choreographer, company and work (Monte Carlo), two Benois de la Dance awards (Moscow and Berlin), Honorary Medal form the President of the Czech Republic, Commander of the Legion of Honour (France), Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit to the Republic of Poland. In 2008 he received the Bronze Medal for Art and Science of the Order of the House of Oragne from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. In 2011 he also received a lifetime achievement award from the Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic.