People of dance

Zdjęcie: Janina Jarzynówna-Sobczak

Janina Jarzynówna-Sobczak. Fot. Instytut Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego w Warszawie.

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Janina Jarzynówna-Sobczak (born on 28/01/1915 in Vienna, died on 14/09/2004 in Gdańsk) choreographer, teacher, dancer. She was called Mother of ballet in Gdańsk and the first Polish choreographer who created contemporary ballet. She danced and performed since childhood, she got a degree of dancer and teacher in 1938 at the Dance Conservatoire in Cracow. There she was engaged by the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre. In 1945 she received a drama certificate of ZASP. Very quickly she started to share her vision of dance as an art form full of drama expression and meanings. Already before the War, she started to work as a teacher of her own Artistic Dance School in Cracow (193839 and 194546). For family reasons, she moved to Gdańsk in 1946, where she organized ballet activities in the region. In 1946, she founded the Artistic Dance School at 6 (today 11) Jaskrowa Dolina Street (150 submissions!), transformed later into the State Secondary School of Choreography, a then into the State Ballet School where she was the art director and teacher. Since the creation of the State Opera and Baltic Philharmonic in Gdańsk (from 19/04/1953 to 1976), she worked as a ballet director and principal choreographer of the group. The second official choreographer was Zygmunt Kamiński, and among assistant choreographers there were: Jerzy Płachecki, Krystyna Gruszkówna, Bogusław Chojnacki, Elżbieta Haus Bojcowa.


Janina Jarzynówna-Sobaczk also created own versions of classical ballets, she was the first to prove in the Polish Peoples Republic that dance might be truly modern. Her most famous ballets, such as The Miraculous Mandarin, Tytania i osioł and Niobe, attracted audience from around the country. They were also presented at many festivals, including Warsaw Autumn (1958, 1960, 1963, 1968), Festival of Polish Operas and Ballets in Poznań (1964), Łódź International Ballet Festival (1968, 1970, 1974). Also abroad: Rostock – Festival Ostseewoche / Germany, tour in Georgian SSR (1959).

In 1970 1975, Janina Jarzynówna-Sobczak created many ballet programmes for TV; several ballets were also filmed and today they seem to be the priceless representation of her chorographical art. These were: three ballet series for TV Ballet (history of dance), Polish Ballet (history of dance in Poland) and Physical Theatre (choreographies with music by Baird, Penderecki, Górecki, Kilar, Serocki and others).


In 2003 a book Talking about dance (Rozmowy o tańcu) was published in which Janina Jarzynówna-Sobaczak told her ballet story.

The artist herself said about own work: It started with neoclassical dance where classical forms were easily transformed by musics character and theme. Then I looked for more and more radical formal means. Classics lost its shape. The rub was that there were no patterns. A personal alphabet was created, driven by a deep conviction that ballet must be made as human as possible and this humanization should be expressed in every gesture, every sign of a dancer.


Edited by: Joanna Czajkowska.

Full version of the text is available in the section Texts (Category: Own texts)

Janina Jarzynówna-Sobczak. Fot. Instytut Teatralny im. Zbigniewa Raszewskiego w Warszawie.
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