A Visual Glossary for WINGS OF WAX & DYAD 1929

By Jessica Maria MacFarlane

It already feels like spring in Houston, but we’ve just begun our second half of the 2015-2016 Season following a wonderful run of Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty! This month we welcome our Winter Mixed Repertory running March 10 – 20 at the Wortham Theater. This is an especially exciting program featuring three ballets which are Houston Ballet premieres, as well as one esteemed choreographer making his Houston Ballet debut. Today, we will discuss Jirí Kylián’s Wings of Wax and Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929. This visual glossary for Wings of Wax  and Dyad 1929 will help to familiarize you with these works.


 Wings of Wax and Dyad 1929 are both contemporary works created by living European choreographers from two different generations. Kylián was born in Prague in 1947 and McGregor was born in Stockport, England in 1970. Below are some extra facts and visuals to guide you through these two distinct contemporary ballets.

“Every teacher will tell you that you cannot dance classical technique with perfection, there is no such thing, there is no way. So you have to adapt the technique to your abilities or to your deficiencies. Learn to cheat!” Jirí Kylián.

Jirí Kylián grew up in post-war Czechoslovakia. His first love of movement emerged from the circus. He trained in acrobatics as a young boy, Graham technique later, then ballet at The School of the National Ballet Prague. The esteemed choreographers of Stuttgart Ballet, John Cranko and Glen Tetley, closely mentored Kylián during the ’60s and ’70s. Later, Kylián found a permanent home at Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT), creating various works and founding new divisions for the students and company of NDT from 1973 to now (he officially left NDT in 2009). During his time at NDT, he also worked closely with our former Resident Choreographer, Christopher Bruce. In all, Kylián has created 98 ballets across the world and continues to work in contemporary ballet. To date, Houston Ballet has performed 8 of his iconic works; Wings of Wax is our 9th Kylián ballet, lovingly staged by former NDT dancer and répétiteur, Brigitte Martin.

Christopher Bruce with Jirí Kylián

 Jirí Kylián’s Wings of Wax

Though it’s not a direct retelling of the Greek myth about Icarus and Daedalus, Kylián was deeply inspired by it. You can see certain movement motifs and set creations which relate to the myth, though there aren’t any direct characters or narration. Here’s a section from the main source about this myth, Ovid’s The Metamorphosis:

“His nearness to the devouring sun softened the fragrant wax that held the wings: and the wax melted: he flailed with bare arms, but losing his oar-like wings, could not ride the air. Even as his mouth was crying his father’s name, it vanished into the dark blue sea, the Icarian Sea, called after him.” Bk VIII:183-235 Daedalus and Icarus. Ovid, The Metamorphosis. 8 AD.

EZ7A0965 B Martin with HB
Brigitte Martin at Dress Rehearsal with Artists of Houston Ballet. Jirí Kylián’s Wings of Wax. Photography by Amitava Sarkar. Houston Ballet. 2016

Before coming to Houston to set this work, Brigitte Martin also sent over some visual inspiration for the cast of Wings of Wax. Below are two iconic paintings depicting the moment after Icarus has flown too close to the sun:

“Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” c.1555 (oil on canvas) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69); 73.5×112 cm; Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium; (add.info.: Icarus seen with his legs thrashing in the sea;); Giraudon; Flemish. Icarus & Daedalus inspiration for Jirí Kylián’s Wings of Wax


“The Fall of Icarus” Joos de Momper. 1564. Icarus & Daedalus inspiration for Jirí Kylián’s Wings of Wax

Along with Kylián’s fluid, melting choreography, the costume (Joke Visser), set, and lighting designs (Michael Simon) for this ballet are one of a kind. A giant aged-tree is suspended upside down from the middle of the stage, while a single revolving spotlight circles the tree, casting shadows upon the moving dancers below. Under the lighting re-design and technical supervision of Kees Tjebbes, the entire work truly comes alive on stage at the Wortham with these dramatic elements.

EZ7A0427 Artists of HB
Artists of Houston Ballet. Jirí Kylián’s Wings of Wax. Photography by Amitava Sarkar. Houston Ballet. 2016.


EZ7A0790 Gonzalez and Kosakowski
Rhys Kosakowski and Karina Gonzalez of Houston Ballet. Jirí Kylián’s Wings of Wax. Photography by Amitava Sarkar. Houston Ballet. 2016.


“I have always been fascinated with the body from the outside, the language of the body and creation.” Choreographer Wayne McGregor at the Royal Opera House in London. For Arts. Photo by Linda Nylind. 6/10/2009.

Although his background isn’t in classical ballet, Wayne McGregor is a celebrated and cerebral contemporary ballet choreographer. He’s the resident choreographer for Royal Ballet and recently opened a new building for his collaborative center called Studio Wayne McGregor, which houses his company. He doesn’t limit himself to one dance form, though. In recent years he’s worked on dance sequence for films, such as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–and will work on the upcoming film, Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them–music videos for Radiohead, Beck, and The Chemical Brothers, as well as presenting during June 2012’s TEDGlobal conference. This is Houston Ballet’s first ballet by McGregor; only a few American companies have had the chance to perform his exciting ballets.

Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929

EZ7A0230 McGregor with HB
Wayne McGregor with Artists of Houston Ballet. Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929. Photography by Amitava Sarkar. Houston Ballet. 2016

A previous work titled Dyad 1909 was the first part of this diptych. It was created for the Wayne McGregor Company in 2009 at the Sadler’s Wells Theater in London to celebrate the innovative features and mindset of the great Ballets Russes, which existed from 1909 to 1929–hence, these two titles. It was this time period that sparked McGregor’s choreographic intentions. With both Dyad 1909 and Dyad 1929 he set out to create a plotless work which encompasses modern-day scientific, social, and technological innovation much like Sergei Diaghilev did with the Ballets Russes.

Cover for, “Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929” from 2015. Ballets Russes. Inspiration for Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929.

Additionally, during this time period there was a fascination with the exploration of the Antarctic. Along with intriguing costumes by Mortiz Junge, a blazing lighting design and clean dot-infested stage space designed by McGregor and Lucy Carter, Dyad 1929 lightly mimics the breath-taking Antarctic sunsets and solar eclipses as well as images of Antarctica from space. The explorative dance creations by modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) was also a major influence and both works are dedicated to his memory.

Antarctica from space via http://www.nasa.gov/ Antarctica inspiration for Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929.Inspiration for Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929.


Merce Cunningham in Antic Meet (1958), with décor and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg. Photo by Richard Rutledge.
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Artists of Houston Ballet. Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929. Photography by Amitava Sarkar. Houston Ballet. 2016.


EZ7A9672 Gomez and Casady
Monica Gomez and Ian Casady of Houston Ballet. Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929. Photography by Amitava Sarkar. Houston Ballet. 2016.


Join us next time on ‘En Pointe with Houston Ballet’ for posts about our Academy Spring Showcase in April and our Spring Mixed Repertory program featuring George Balanchine’s Serenade in May! Tickets for the Winter Mixed Repertory are on sell now by phone or online at http://www.houstonballet.org/Ticketing-Schedule/Season-Calendar/Winter-Mixed-Rep/ with performances running until Sunday March 20.

Watch a preview of Houston Ballet’s 2016 Winter Mixed Repertory Program:

Jessica Maria MacFarlane is the PR/Marketing Archival Intern for Houston Ballet and writes about dance in Houston for Arts & Culture Texas while passionately researching dance and literature in her spare time.


2 thoughts on “A Visual Glossary for WINGS OF WAX & DYAD 1929

  1. Aha! That is really great content I ever read about the ballet dance. Thanks for sharing. I’m a ballet dancer and want to learn classical ballet. I heard KCDC dance academy recently which conduct the summer intensive dance program for classical ballet. It is 2 week, 4 week or 6 week program. Do you conduct any such kind of program if yes please share the details. Thanks!

    – Aaron

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