An outstanding choreographer and the director of the Polish National Ballet, Krzysztof Pastor has become famous worldwide for his work on more than 50 ballet performances that were hosted by some of the world’s most prestigious stages, from the Netherlands, Lithuania, Russia, Turkey, Germany, and France to the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Recently, he has been conferred the Commander's Cross of Polonia Restituta for his exceptional contribution to culture.
Choreographer, the director of the Polish National Ballet
A graduate of the School of Ballet in Gdańsk and long-time member of the Polish Dance Theatre in Poznań, where he honed his skills under the supervision of the legendary Konrad Drzewiecki. Pastor became a soloist for the French Le Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon in 1983, which gave him the opportunity to dance in the ballets of Gray Veredon, Hans van Manen and Kurt Jooss. He has also worked on choreography with the company of the Washington Ballet and performed in classical and neoclassical ballets and contemporary dance choreographies of Het Nationale Ballet (the Dutch National Ballet). As a choreographer he has become famous worldwide for his work on more than 50 ballet performances, including the both publicly and critically acclaimed Do Not Go Gentle… and In Light and Shadow, spectacular full-length performances such as Kurt Weill, Acid City, Don Giovanni, Tristan, and The Dangerous Liaisons, and also, Symphony Fantastic produced for the Australian Ballet.
In interviews, he admits that everywhere he works, he focuses on emotion and authenticity:
The word is out that the language of ballet is archaic and artificial, that you can’t use it to talk about anything but romantic performances about love, but that’s not true. You have to remember to use natural language, not that kind of acting that you could see in silent films, but one that is very contemporary, without undue exaltation, one that gets straight to the audience. Movement and dance are both forms of expression, such art can talk about various themes. Such artistic dance is to induce authentic experiences, show passion, trigger emotions. I reject artificiality in my ballet and focus on spontaneity and authenticity.
– said Pastor to VIP magazine.
In January 2003, Krzysztof Pastor was appointed resident choreographer of the Dutch National Ballet. He has presented his work at the world’s most important festivals, and he is also a member of the jury in the international dance competitions. After years as an emigre, he returned to Warsaw in 2009 and became the director of the Polish National Ballet. He began his directorship with the well-acclaimed And the Rain Will Pass…, inspired by the fate of wartime Warsaw and the poetry of Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński.
The Ballet about Poland
And the Rain Will Pass… is Pastor’s long-awaited authorial choreography composed specifically for the Polish National Ballet. Set in the historical context, it tells the story of the Generation of Columbuses and the Warsaw Uprising in wartime Warsaw. Pastor admits to having been inspired by both history and iconic works of art: Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds and Canal, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s music and, most of all, Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński’s poetry, who died on the fourth day of the Warsaw Uprising in fighting next to Teatr Wielki. The death of the poet is told without props – the theatre is filled only with dance. The company wore subtle costumes and the structure and atmosphere of the performance was created with light. Dorota Szwarcman writes in her review for the Polityka magazine:
What we remember best is the couple of Aleksandra Liaszenko and Paweł Koncewoj; when the dancer goes into the fire that appears on a makeshift screen (a moving effect), it appears that the choreographer reinterpreted the polka from Little requiem with a capital letter. The title borrowed from Baczyński’s poem is also exemplified when one of the characters washes in the curtain of water. Such literalism, however, does not offend. Pastor’s show is a thoughtful and beautiful performance.
Jacek Marczyński from Rzeczpospolita pointed out that the main character of the performance is us, the community as a whole:
The choreographer works with a crowd that fills the great stage of the National Opera (…). In a 100-minute-long performance, Pastor shows that the nobility of movement does not kill emotions. His vision absorbs the viewer, even overwhelms, especially since it is supported by Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s score. Conductor Wojciech Michniewski along with the National Opera choir and orchestra have managed to attribute emotional value to each note.
Romeo and Juliet, co-produced with the renowned Joffrey Ballet from Chicago, and The Tempest, shown in Amsterdam, were also highly applauded. In June 2015, Krzysztof Pastor, together with Italian production designer and costume designer, the Oscar-winning Gianni Quaranta, presented Casanova in Warsaw – a ballet costume performance inspired by the real story of the Italian womanizer, composed to the music of Mozart.
In April 2016, Pastor, in cooperation with the Het Nationale Ballet, adapted Shakespeare’s The Tempest for stage, a surprisingly up-to-date play full with political meanings. Pastor invited two eminent Iranian visual artists – Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari – to author the video projections complementing the scenography. This is what the choreographer said about the ballet in an interview for Culture.pl:
Shakespeare’s works are often said to be a history of the world in a nutshell, which is why we treat the encounter with the drama’s characters as a point of departure for important conversations about the present times. But this performance is not about Islam, we wanted to bring up European issues. In the first part Caliban says: ‘This island is mine. I used to be my own king, and now I’m a slave’. For me it’s a dramatic text about colonialism and postcolonialism.
Additionally, in 2011 Krzysztof Pastor became the artistic director of ballet at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vilnius.
Most significant awards:
1995: Gold Choreography Prize, International Ballet Competition in Helsinki (Finland)
2000: Medal of 200 Years of Polish Ballet from the Ministry of Culture (Poland)
2000: Choreography Prize, Dansersfonds ‘79 (the Netherlands)
2010: Terpsychora (Terpsichore) Award from ZASP (Polish Performing Artists Union)
2011: Golden Gloria Artis Medal (Poland)
2014: Prize of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage (Poland)
2015: Officer’s Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order
Sources: Polityka, Rzeczpospolita, magazynvip.pl, Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa, oprac. AL, czerwiec 2015
Translated by Paweł Trzaskowski, 19 June 2015, updated May 2016