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Sylvie Guillem

'6000 miles away'

by Jessica Wilson

May 20, 2013 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK

“Catch it while you can,” they say of fleeting moments. You might think that of the iconic and ethereal Sylvie Guillem given she seems to have been gracing stages for so long, but despite the fact her age is no secret, on the evidence of this evening it is clear that audiences will be able to witness and experience her phenomenal talent for many years to come, so youthful is her body and its gestures.

“6000 miles away” is a triple bill of exhilarating movement. Beginning with Jiri Kylian’s “27’52”” the evening was equally one of narrative and emotive quality. The duet, danced here by Aurelie Cayla and Lukas Timulak, is filled initially with staccato, spider-like movements, but that slowly give way to fraught, fluid choreography signalled by a shift in the score. The flats had been flown out leaving the stage bare, adding poignancy to the movement. The dance had a slick quality and was continuously executed with precision, strength and trust. It appears to portray a relationship of sorts in the caring nature of the lifts and supports that twist and turn yet constantly acknowledge the other dancer. Despite the sharpness of the movement in the first being utterly mesmerising, “27’52”” is at its most compelling in the second part of the piece which is increasingly fluid. The couple danced with purpose and vigour throughout.

Varying degrees of lightness and purposefulness were also conveyed in the other works. William Forsythe’s “Rearray” was danced by Guillem and Massimo Murru. The dance seemed to be laced with irony as the pair appeared to be humouring something vaster than the moments taking place in the barely lit space, although at times Murru’s rather intense display distracted from the tongue-in-cheek nature of the duet. Focusing solely on Guillem, and it was difficult not to, it was not so much the difficulty of what she did, but more the intention behind it. Even her walks across stage as the lights were momentarily extinguished became strides that covered miles. Her dance itself was packed with virtuosic display. She was quite dazzling. Legs seem to go on for ever, and those arms…so reminiscent of butterfly wings. The choreography is a long way from her gymnastic and classical ballet roots but her classical athleticism, full of hyper-extensions was there for all to see, and complemented effectively by the Murru. In accordance with something larger than the performance, she did not appear to dance for the audience, only truly acknowledging them in her curtain calls.

Closing “6000 miles away,” Mats Ek’s “Bye” is a solo danced by Guillem, first seen two years earlier in the same theatre. “Bye” was another meaningful journey, filled with an effortless quality by Guillem who once more displayed grace paired with solid purpose. The audience, greeted with a small white screen, chuckled as a video of Guillem began, giving way to near perfect unison as she emerged from behind it and seemingly progressed from a child on the way to school, to teenage years, to adult self-assurance. The humorous insights of the film, matched exactly by Guillem, offered a human side to the so far otherworldly dancing body. Again, the piece was full of hyperbolic extensions woven together with contemporary technique. Guillem’s utilisation of her body, in the grounded pliés and breathtaking jetés, and her iconic legs and feet, was inspiring to watch, a dancer in complete control of her eagerly responsive body.

“6000 miles away” displayed more than enough of Guillem’s immeasurable talent to prove that she is still a fantastic being. Seemingly flighty and unattainable, her slight figure was fully engaging and enrapturing. This was an evening of awe-inspiring lines coupled with emotive qualities. The hidden meanings made it all the more intriguing, although the evening seemed to become more autobiographical as it progressed.

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