Cora Bos-Kroese on the genius of Jiri Kylian – and being a part of his legacy

Here you are, in part 2 of our conversation. In the first part, Cora shared what she looks for when running an audition for a Kylian ballet that she’s setting. If you missed part 1, check it out here.

In this second section, we talk about her relationship with Jiri Kylian, the way it shaped her knowledge of dance (and her life), and what makes his work continue to inspire and challenge her.


L: Which of Kylian’s creations were you a part of?
C: I think the first one was “Falling Angels.” After, there was “Petite Mort,” “Wings of Wax,” the full-length “One-of-a-kind,” that was a special one. I nearly left the company and then I got that piece. But in a lot of the old pieces that we did, he sometimes would change things so I felt like they became more a part of me.
L: I felt like that just in our one rehearsal with Jiri. You get to own them a bit more. That’s really nice, and important I think. It can be hard to own roles in the same way if you’re always trying to do it the way somebody else did, because you can never be that person.
C: No, you have to make it your own.
Cora with Martino Muller, copyright Joris Jan-Bos

L: So what ballets of his do you teach now?

C: I have done “One of a kind” in Lyon, and then “Bella Figura” loads of places (including here), “Petite Mort,” “Falling Angels,”  “Sound Symphony,” “Forgotten Land,” “Last Touch First”… well there were more pieces created on me but those were the first that popped up.  I set a lot of his works. 
L: Did you perform all of the pieces that you set?
C: Yes – and then you have an affirmation with them. Some you have a connection with more with than others. Then you still have to learn all the other parts but you’ve seen them so many times that you know what the aims were, you see all those definitions. 
L: It’s something that’s burned in the memory because you’ve experienced it so…
C: We breathed it.
L: In the rehearsal Anna and I had with him he used a lot of imagery to help us find what he was looking for. Much more of an approach of the feeling behind the movement than a physical explanation of “Mmmm I think you’re foot needs to be here,” and that really helped us.
C: Exactly, that’s what he uses. When we worked with him he always created from images. And then we would give him steps and then he would add to them, or take away… he would say something like “Moving away like you’re trying to escape him” or “I want something flying,” and then you give him something flying. Then he adds an arm or a leg, very musical of course. So it was really searching for movement – and the music was his leader. Often I heard the music before, and then after he created I was able to hear all the instruments. He made me aware of the long note, or the ping here or the boom there, and then you’re like “Oh my god.” Even now, when I’m watching Chapeau I see the musicality of it. And then it even makes me listen to more of the sounds than I ever thought were there because somehow he enhances them. So you start to listen more, or you feel more of the music through his movement – it’s really a marriage.
L: I was just talking with a friend this morning who was saying that he felt Kylian’s work was a bit like Balanchine’s in the way that the music is really tied to the dance, in that you can’t even imagine any other step in its place. It just works. Kylian also uses a lot of syncopation, he doesn’t just listen the melody.
C: No, it’s also the undertones, or the in-betweens.
L: And it’s such a pleasure. I think one of the things I noticed a few weeks ago with Anna was how many surprises there are in his choreography. I’m constantly surprised by timing, by the place that a body part goes, by how something connects or continues, and those surprises are so pleasurable. You have no idea that something is humanly possible, that it’s going to come up – and then it does.
C: Exactly. Because sometimes he would ask you an impossible thing. At least you would think it was impossible. But because he was in front of you, you tried all these things, and then all of a sudden it was working and you were like “How did we get there?” It’s because he searches for impossibilities. He has a sort of feeling for something.
L: So the only way to find these things is to just try. Even if you’re going to fail, try it. Are there any common themes that run through his ballets?
C: Yeah, it’s life and death. Here now, the past, where you’re going to, the path of your life and what you’re experiencing at that moment… but there is always the passage of being in this moment, looking back at the memories that you carry, but always alone. This comes through a lot. Because there’s not a lot of things where you’re dancing looking at each other, straight on. Very few moments, and they’re really chosen moments. So most of the time you’re dancing together, but you’re sensing each other.
Sensing each other: Cora with Ken Ossola, copyright Joris Jan-Bos
L: Interesting. I haven’t thought about that one. 
C: If you start to look now, you’ll see.
L: I noticed the part in Bella that’s quite clear.
C: But there are moments where there’s this look and then a going away again. He said once a beautiful thing to me “We’re born alone and we die alone.” So of course we need people, but in essence you’re going to always be alone. And he has love and passion for music and people but you also see that he’s… I’ve learned that that’s such a truth. Like even how much you’re connected to someone, or whatever is going though your mind goes through your mind alone. You can share it, but there is this part of you that’s only you that understands what you’re going through. 
L: Definitely. That makes me think of how to build a relationship. What you’re talking about is the reason communication is so important to learn.
C: Yeah, to share what you think. But still also you need other people to identify who you are. There are people in your life that are there to teach you certain things. That’s my belief, not Jiri’s thing. But I do believe that you cross paths with people, and sometimes it can be a very hard co-existence with that person, but it’s necessary for you to understand something about yourself or give something to another person in the future. You’re also there to help each other, so it’s a very give/take experience. Because being alone alone is also not nourishing. You have to nourish from the people around you. 
L: And good and bad, you learn things about yourself.
C: So that’s an essential thing in his work, the togetherness – one person doing one thing, the other person doing another thing, but then you’re there together and you’re always sharing this off-balance together. You cannot go without the other one, so in the end he’s actually also saying you cannot be there without the other one being there.
L: Interesting, I never thought about this idea of sharing weight. So we’re talking about depending on one another. It goes deep.
C: I’ve thought about it a bit 😉 But he’s taught me so much. That’s why he’s such a mentor to me, and why he’s been such an amazing person in my life.



That’s it for now, everyone. Next time, Cora talks about the personal projects she undertook later on in her career, and how she learned to forge forward while accepting the possibility of failure. If you want to catch it, be sure to hit that ‘Follow’ button below 🙂




3 thoughts on “Cora Bos-Kroese on the genius of Jiri Kylian – and being a part of his legacy

  1. What a terrific, inspiring discussion/exchange/collaboration, Lucas (and Cora). “We breathed it…it’s also the undertones, or the in-betweens…So the only way to find these things, is to just try…Yeah, it’s life and death…you’re there together and you’re always sharing this off-balance together…”

    Holy Moly. And thanks to you both.


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