Dreamtime

It was in 1980, when Toru Takemitsu, the acclaimed Japanese 
composer and myself met for the first time. It was on the 
“Groote Eylandt” in the “Northern Territory” of Australia. I have 
invited him to come there in order to experience the biggest 
gathering of aboriginal dancers, musicians, singers, storytellers 
and masters of ceremony ever held. The organization of such 
a meeting was my brainchild and my deepest wish, which I 
have carried inside me for a very long time….

In one of the few quiet moments in this festival, Takemitsu 
discussed with me his rather poetic idea which he often 
applied while working on his musical compositions. 
(This information might be helpful for the understanding 
and appreciation of his music.) He told me that his way 
of composing was like walking in a small ‘’japanese garden:
”…. This garden might not be very large, but very deep 
and very high….!

In that garden is perhaps a fragile Japanese tree, but what 
is hidden from your sight, are its complex and powerful roots 
which spread under a large area. You see a stone….but it is 
not clear if is it the top of a huge underground mountain or 
just a pebble….” His message was clear: what you see is only 
a part of what there is. And the visible cannot exist without 
the invisible - the same way our own personalities are formed.

With Dreamtime we have created a work in which the invisible 
is just as important as what we are able to see – it might be 
so, that after seeing this ballet you are not so sure if you have 
engaged in a stage presentation, or if you just dreamed for a 
while. In dreams, people and things around us appear and 
disappear, seemingly without any sense or meaning and 
everything in a dream might even happen just one second 
before the alarm goes off to wake us up….

Dreamtime is about feelings that are very precise but cannot be 
expressed as such. They evaporate and others take their place.

The result of our trip to the Northern Territory of Australia, 
where Takemitsu and myself have studied the dances and 
rituals of the aboriginal people - ”Dreamtime” - has seemingly 
nothing to do with the Aboriginal Culture, but it would have 
not been impossible to make this work without that experience. 
In fact anything I have made ever since is marked by it.

	
	
For the Aboriginals, “Dreaming” does not have the same 
meaning as it has for “us”. We “daydream” or fall into our 
beds at night, sleep, dream, wake up, and sometimes 
remember our dreams. Occasionally our dreams might be 
analyzed, and our “psychological knots might be revealed. 
This has nothing to do with the concept of “Dreaming” of 
the Australian aboriginals. 

Their life and everything they do, is an eternal, continuous 
flow of “Dreaming”, which goes back to their ancestors and 
all the way back to their origin - to the beginning of 

the “Creation” itself…. All this is directed and maintained by 
many complicated rituals in which dance plays an essential 
and inevitable role. 

The importance of Dance within the Aboriginal Society is 
striking. While being there, I couldn’t resist asking an old man 
a very naive question: “Why is dance so important to you?”

The answer was equally simple, but shattering: “It is because
I have learned it from my father and because I have to teach 
it to my son….”  

It was a lucky coincidence, that Takemitsu and myself have 
met on this barren place called “Groote Eylandt” in the north 
of Australia at that time. Takemitsu was then very preoccupied 
by the phenomenon of sleep, dreams and sub consciousness. 
His interest in this darker and still rather unexplored side of 
our being, happened to be of vital importance for our colla-
boration and had a great influence on Takemitsu’s creation 
of “Dreamtime”. The sound-scape of his composition has 
nothing to do with the music he heard in Australia, neither 
my choreography carries any trace of the Aboriginal dance 
vocabulary, and yet “Dreamtime” could have never been 
created without our experiences in 1980 - over there on 
the other side of the globe.

Jiří Kylián