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Director's passion keeps Poland's ballet on its toes

From Paula Newton, CNN
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
  • Poland's National Ballet is going from strength to strength
  • Globally renowned choreographer Krzysztof Pastor is the visionary director
  • Pastor sees his work as reflecting a new, confident and outgoing Poland

CNN's On the Road series brings you a greater insight into the customs and culture of Poland. On TV and online CNN explores the places, the people and the passions unique to this eastern European nation. Watch the episodes during the week of November 18 and the special half-hour show on November 23 & 24.

(CNN) -- For Poland's National Ballet, the present no longer means reveling in the fleet-footed legends of past stage glories. Instead, the focus is on creating a program as international and challenging as that of any major company on the planet.

The country's national ballet has been up and running since April 2009 (when it was given artistic autonomy within the existing structures of the Teatr Wielki "Grand Theater" in Warsaw), pushing out exciting new works and stage shows to wide acclaim.

Polish ballet's reputation has subsequently been given a new lease of life and the company's output has been positively received.

Our mission is to go outside and show that we are a young, dynamic, innovative and creative company
Krzysztof Pastor, Poland National Ballet director

See also: Why you should get to know Polish literature

At the helm of this transformation is Krzysztof Pastor, a globally renowned choreographer from Gdansk, northern Poland. Pastor returned to the land of his birth from the Netherlands -- where he still holds a post as a resident choreographer at the Dutch National Ballet -- to take up the post of director when the new company was formed.

"For everyone in Poland, not only for ballet dancers but also in other jobs, you know one has to be innovative, creative," Pastor explained.

"That's the importance of art. We should be sort of avant-garde (with) this creativity and innovation," he added.

Representing modern Poland

Pastor's mission is to create a dance company that reflects Poland's rebirth after a turbulent century of wars, occupations and repression.

According to the Teatr Wielki, ballet has played a prominent role in Polish culture since as far back as the 16th century when the first choreographed displays began appearing in the country's royal courts. During the romantic period of the 19th century, the Warsaw Ballet was even considered one Europe's leading ensembles.

But Poland's traumatic experiences in the 20th century meant a lower output than in previous generations on the ballet front: not anymore.

See also: Polish street art goes large

"Somebody asked me what I think and how the company should be in the future," Pastor said. "I think it should reflect the society, you know, with ambitions."

I think I have accomplished something but I'm also aware that there is still a long way to go
Krzysztof Pastor, Poland National Ballet director

Attracting international talent

With scores of dancers and productions, the complex artistic operation is far from a one-man-show. But according to prima ballerina Marta Feidler the potential of this dance company could only have been fulfilled with Pastor's homecoming.

"We were really happy because we felt that it was really (an) opportunity for us to change something from the old years, when everything was so strict and closed actually, not opened for the world.

"So he (Pastor) changed a lot of things of thinking, of showing the dancers how it's supposed to work," she added.

Part of being open and creative means the national ballet is now an international company and a place where people from outside Poland want to dance and work.

See also: Explore Poland's majestic cultural heritage

For Pastor, this means attracting the best talent to Poland from around the world.

"Our mission is to go outside and show that we are a young, dynamic, innovative and creative company. I think I have accomplished something but I'm also aware that there is still a long way to go," he said.

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