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Adam Mickiewicz Institute enables Rambert to create its first full-length narrative dance work in over 30 years

Adam Mickiewicz Institute is proud to support Rambert in its first full-length narrative dance work in over 30 years. The award-winning company will create a two-act, modern reimagining of the 17th-century play Life Is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, choreographed by two-time Olivier Award-winner Kim Brandstrup, with music by Witold Lutosławski, and animations by film legends theQuay Brothers premiering at Sadler’s Wells in May 2018, and touring the UK and internationally to 2019.

Rambert is well-known for touring mixed programmes of shorter works, yet this new production follows the company’s commitment to taking world-class dance to the widest possible audience. This co-production between Rambert and Adam Mickiewicz Institute also presents a unique opportunity for British audiences to experience Lutosławski’s music in new forms.

Adam Mickiewicz Institute, an organisation named after Poland’s great Romantic poet and charged with promoting Polish culture around the world and initiating international cooperation in the field of culture is leading this project, with the objective to give a different dimension to the music of Lutosławski.

Ewa Bogusz-Moore, Deputy Director of Adam Mickiewicz Institute said: “Adam Mickiewicz Institute is incredibly proud to support this project. We are delighted to be working with Rambert to create this piece and take Lutosłowski’s music to new audiences who might have never experienced it. This production is very ambitious, Rambert’s many talents and the collaboration with the brilliant Quay Brothers I think really do justice to Lutosławski’s rich music.” 

Helen Shute, Rambert Chief Executive / Executive Producer said: "Support from organisations like Adam Mickiewicz Institute is essential to making the most ambitious ideas possible. They have enabled us to bring together the most wonderful artists to tell this story and we are proud to be introducing Lutosławski’s music to new audiences across the UK and around the world.”

One of the most important European composers of the 20th century, Lutosławski was relatively unknown outside Poland until the 1960s. His Symphony No. 1 was denounced as “formalist” and banned from public performances during the Stalinist era. This had a profound impact on his work: he earned a living writing children’s songs and scores for motion pictures until those restrictions were eased in the mid-1950s. He developed his own characteristic composition techniques, incorporating his own methods of building harmonies from small groups of musical intervals. Using a pseudonym, at the end of the fifties, Lutosławski composed music such as waltzes, tangos, foxtrots and even pop songs. His later works include Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1970), Chain 2: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra (1985), Piano Concerto (1988), and Symphony No. 4 (1992), which is considered his masterpiece.

Life Is a Dream (La Vida es Sueño) is Calderón’s best known work. Published in 1635, it’s a study on free will and fate and has at its heart a fictional Polish Prince, imprisoned by his father because of a deadly prophecy. The play has been described as “the supreme example of Spanish Golden Age drama”. This contemporary take on Calderón is a journey through alienation, vengeance, tenderness and redemption, set in an ever-changing, dream-like world played by Rambert Orchestra, choreographed on Rambert’s dancers with projections by legendary filmmakers and stop-motion pioneers the Quay Brothers, who will transform the space into a dreamlike world where illusion and reality collide.

The piece will feature extracts from Lutosławski’s Dance PréludesMusique FunèbreSymphonie No 4, performed by Rambert Orchestraas well as some pop songs recorded in the 1950s by “Derwid”, Lutosławski’s pseudonym. Costumes are designed by Holly Waddington (who created costume designs for Hofesh Shechter’s Untouchable at the Royal Ballet) and lighting by Olivier Award and Evening Standard Award-winner Jean Kalman.

Adam Mickiewicz Institute

The goal of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, a state-funded cultural institution operating under its flagship brand, is to promote Poland and Polish culture abroad. Through the presentation of high-quality initiatives and events in the fields of art, music, and design, the Institute aspires to introduce an international audience to contemporary Polish culture. Adam Mickiewicz Institute has presented more than 5500 events, attracting an audience of more than 52.5 million across five continents.

Polska Music

The Polska Music programme actively supports performances of Polish classical music by renowned international artists worldwide, aiming to increase its popularity across the globe.

As well as initiating international stage productions and concerts, commissioning new work, and nurturing contemporary composers, Polska Music also promotes recordings, books and events. Polska Music has collaborated with a host of high-profile partners around the world, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Bregenz Festival, Chandos Records, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cité de la Musique – Philharmonie de Paris, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Klangforum Wien, Lincoln Center Festival, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Münchener Kammerorchester, Philharmonia Orchestra, Rambert Dance Company, Royal Opera House, Sound and Music, Welsh National Opera and 59 Productions.

The Polska Music programme was launched in 2011 by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute – a national cultural institution aiming to strengthen Polish cultural impact and to benefit international cultural exchange.


Rambert is the UK’s leading contemporary dance company. From its home on London’s South Bank, it tours new creations and seminal historic works throughout the UK and internationally, and is widely celebrated for the quality of its dancers and the ambition of its productions. Recent repertoire includes new works by Mark Baldwin, Kim Brandstrup, Ben Duke, Andonis Foniadakis, Aletta Collins, Lucy Guerin and Shobana Jeyasingh, together with revivals of works by Christopher Bruce, Lucinda Childs, Merce Cunningham and Siobhan Davies.

Witold Lutosławski

Witold Lutosławski (1913 – 1994) was the pre-eminent Polish composer of his generation, and is acknowledged as one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Characterised by longlined melodies and distinctive harmonies, his compositions bridge the neo-classical and the Avant Garde.

Life Is a Dream

Premiere: 23 May 2018, Sadler’s Wells, London

Life Is a Dream will be the first ever ballet set to music by major 20th-century composer Witold Lutosławski
Life Is a Dream will take Lutosławski’s music to audiences who have never experienced his work as the production will embark on a 29-date tour to Bergen International Festival, Norwich, Llandudno, Manchester, Edinburgh, Plymouth, Glasgow, Inverness and Leicester.

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