Overgrown Path received its United States Premiere by the Netherlands Dance Theatre on July 8, 1981 at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, with the same cast.
Overgrown Path was given its American Ballet Theatre Company Premiere at Fisher Hall, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York on October 17, 2008.
Kylián’s choreography is based on Janáček’s intimate piano cycle, which gradually evolved over a number of years spanning the time before and after 1902, in the saddest period of Janáček’s life.
The nearly fifty-year-old composer lost his beloved daughter Olga when she died after a prolonged illness at the age of 21. Some years before, his only son Vladimir, too, had passed away. Olga’s death in particular, strongly marks all the works composed by Janáček around the turn of the century, especially the opera Jenufa, the small cantata Elegy upon the Death of my Daughter Olga and the piano cycle On the Overgrown Path. It is highly autobiographical music, in which Janáček looks back on his own life.
Looking backwards is like wandering along an overgrown path: memories are run with time, the values and emotions of events have changed with the passing of the years. Some minor events stand out more sharply, the emotional urgency of others has faded. Kylián’s choreography allows these backgrounds to be strongly present without depicting Janáček's life story.
Overgrown Path is dedicated to Antony Tudor, whom Jiří Kylián called “one of the greatest choreographers of today”.
A special relationship sprang up between the two choreographers after
Antony Tudor had seen a few of Kylián’s ballets in New
York. Tudor often worked with Czech music and felt a close affinity
with Czech culture. Antony Tudor’s recognition of Kylián’s
work left an enduring impression on him.