Soldier’s Mass It was early days - four years after I became artistic director of NDT, when I decided to make this work designed for male dancers only. The decision to do so was probably more of a subconscious move, rather than a move following any particular “Artistic strategy”. Probably one of the reasons for taking this decision was a very simple and obvious one: Namely: “The underprivileged position of men in the dance world.” But there were many more: If we like it or not, there are many similarities between soldiers and dancers, and of course there are just as many diametrically opposing differences. The obvious similarities are: 1) In the war time we always talk of the “War Theatre”, 2) Dancers and soldiers alike have to be in a perfect physical condition, 3) They have to be disciplined, 4) They have to be able to rely on each other whenever exposed to a particular situation, 5) They have stage fright, and they have to show their true character, 6) They fight for something they believe in, and very often for something they don’t believe in at all, 7) They are vulnerable, On the other hand there are some quite fundamental differences: 1) Dancers are not (always) in danger of dying in the course of a performance, 2) Their strife is not likely to change the course of history, 3) They do not have to fight to death for the people who forced them to fight, and the soldiers who desert the battlefield are usually shot dead on the spot… the dancers not.
The score by Bohuslav Martinů for a male choir, brass instruments, piano and percussion was written in 1939 - at the very outset of World War II. His music, set to the text by Jiří Mucha, leaves no doubt of what their message was about: Both immigrants, they wanted to give their total support to the just cause of the Czech Army in its fight against the German occupation. Unfortunately, this effort had no effect on the course of the war - Czechoslovakia fell, as it was sold to Hitler at the infamous “Munich Conference”. This contract signed by Great Britain, France and Italy in the early hours of the 30th of September 1938. This gave Hitler an internationally approved legal right to annex the “Sudetenland” (an integral part of Czechoslovakia) to his “German Reich”. In fact this meant, that an entire sovereign country at the very centre of Europe - Czechoslovakia was given up by the west European powers in order to appease Hitler, who in return promised them, that his army would only march in the easterly direction in order to fight the Russian Bolsheviks and communists…. As a result of this catastrophic diplomatic disaster, signed by Great Britain’s prime minister Neville Chamberlain, Italy’s “Il Duce” Benito Mussolini and by France’s Prime minister Édouard Daladier, the entire world plunged into the worst nightmare humankind ever saw…. Jiří Kylián