Birth-day was inspired, in part, by Sabine Kupferberg, who is one of the performers, as well as Kylián’s wife. The music is by Mozart, and the dancers wear period costumes and wigs. The premise is that this is Sabine’s birthday, but for Kylián, there is a dark side to this: another birthday means another year closer to death. Birth-day, then, is unavoidably a piece about ageing and mortality, although it also is a very funny work, as it presents episodes with which any person, regardless of his or her age, can identify. The dancers perform in real time, sometimes in a kind of duet with a film of them in the background. The film also becomes the foreground in several episodes. A frantic Charlie Chaplin-ish effect was created by having the dancers perform to slowed-down versions of the music, and then returning the music (and the film) to a normal speed. There’s an endearingly naughty bed scene for two of the dancers, and another in which two more dancers prepare a birthday cake and become rather abusive. Another episode, set to Mozart’s Symphony #33, gives a whole new meaning to “fan dance.” Birth-day is haunting, charming, and often laugh-out-loud funny, and so it is a great introduction to Kylián’s work.
We all were born on a certain day, and we all celebrate this event in a cycle of 365 days. This is the period in which nature is born, matures, dies and is reborn again – regardless of our existence. We ask questions about why we were born, about what was before our birth and what will be after we are gone. But there aren’t – and there will never be – any satisfactory answers. Ever since my young age I felt very deeply, that our “Birth certificate” is actually our “Death sentence”- (“We are born in order to die…” – Francis Bacon).
I have also felt, that parents, whenever they conceive a child, they actually die in a metaphoric sense – they gave birth to a new life and consequently their own life becomes redundant, as they fulfilled their genetic duty. Sometimes, when our birthdays arrive, we think of the day we were born, but maybe also of the day we will die, a day on which we might, or might not be reborn again. It is all the same – the same cycle of a year that has just gone by, with buds and fresh greens, followed by flowers, heat and sun, full of ripeness and fulfilment, the picking of delicious fruit, only to face soon the frost – the imaginary symbol of the “End of Time”, only to prepare all the forces of nature to be reborn again.
Between our “Birth day” and our “Death day”, much time and energy, filled with creation, desire, love and confusion, is spent… and during much of this time we make fools of ourselves…
Mozart, whose music I have chosen for this production, is the greatest example of someone, whose lifespan was painfully limited, but who has nevertheless understood life in all its richness, clownery, and madness in that little time that was available to him. It is his spirit, and his understanding of the fact, that life is no more than a masquerade or a “dress rehearsal” for something much more deep andJiří Kylián
meaningful, which has inspired me to make this work.