Kyoto Prize Symposium 2016

A Choreographer Who Developed 20th Century Ballet to New Levels, and Continues to Lead the Global Dance Scene Today

Thursday, March 17, 2016
Shiley Theatre, Camino Hall
University of San Diego

www.kyotoprize.org

The Inamori Foundation's 29th Annual Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Philosophy was presented to John Neumeier.

John Neumeier is a world-leading choreographer who specializes in applying traditional ballet technique and vocabulary to maximize the potential for bodily expression and capture the details of human psychology. He has gradually combined the essence of two genres, dramatic ballet and abstract ballet, thereby raising the art to a new level.

Ballets choreographed by Mr. Neumeier depict complex human psychology in the most sophisticated manner. He has never been content to merely absorb the classical traditions, but draws from traditional ballet techniques to establish his own unique art.

During his Kyoto Prize Symposium presentation, Mr. Neumeier enlightened the audience with commentary and beautiful performances by four of his most extraordinary dancers.

Neumeier provided an additional program called "Shakespeare Danced," featuring four highly acclaimed principal dancers from Germany’s Hamburg Ballet. Under Neumeier’s direction, the dancers, Car sten Jung (Germany), Hèléne Bouchet (France), Edvin Revazo (Russia), and Anna Laudere (Latvia) performed vignettes from Shakespeare's HamletOthello and A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

John Neumeier instructing a dancer "I propose to define dance as the living shape of emotion." - John Neumeier © Photo by Holger Badekow
John Neumeier Read more on John Neumeier View more information about this prize laureate and others on the Kyoto Prize website.
Dancers Videos of the Hamburg Ballet Watch videos of John Neumeier's choreography on the Hamburg ballet's YouTube channel. © Photo by Holger Badekow

Master Choreographer in today's dance scene

Mr. Neumeier, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A., has directed the Hamburg Ballet for more than four decades. He enjoys a strong following in Europe, where ballet audiences look forward to his works with great enthusiasm. His masterpieces are performed not only in Germany but also around the globe by other first-class ballet companies, exerting significant influence on the entire ballet community. With a deep interest in Japanese culture, Mr. Neumeier has created several pieces that beautifully evoke Japanese sensitivity, lyricism, and connection to the changing seasons. The most famous of these is his Seven Haiku of the Moon.

The culmination of 20th century ballet

Ballets choreographed by Mr. Neumeier depict complex human psychology in the most sophisticated manner. He has never been content to merely absorb the classical traditions, but draws from traditional ballet techniques to establish his own unique art. In works such as Illusions—like “Swan Lake” and Lady of the Camellias, he surprises audiences with a fresh experience by incorporating new interpretations and perspectives into classical repertoires and literary works. When choreographing musical masterpieces, such as Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler, he interprets the compositions by immersing himself in them deeply to produce emotional expressions through the dancers’ movements—despite the fact that no distinct stories are recounted in such works. Individual scenes are elaborately structured through choreographic design that corresponds to the fine nuances of the compositions, thus ensuring that the ambience of each composition is exquisitely expressed. In both dramatic and abstract works, Mr. Neumeier’s rich musicality serves as the essential power underpinning the persuasive, inspirational quality of his creations.

Mr. Neumeier started his career in the classics; while continuing this tradition, he has added new dimensions to the expression of dance by integrating the essence of the two major trends in 20th century ballet—namely, dramatic ballet, with its emphasis on psychological portrayals, and abstract ballet, in which conventional storytelling is absent.

Contributions to ballet culture

Today, his activities extend beyond ballet production to the promotion of ballet culture in general. Since 1975, he has organized the Hamburg Ballet Days, attracting ballet companies and dancers from around the world, who draw inspiration from each other through their unique performances. Since founding the Hamburg Ballet School in 1978, he has continued to devote considerable time and energy to ballet education. In 2006, he established the Foundation John Neumeier to preserve his historic ballet collections for the benefit of future generations. And, in 2011, he founded Germany's National Youth Ballet for the purpose of developing the talents and skills of young dancers.

Ballet photo from Neumeier's Tatjana (C) Holger Badekow