Saturday, October 17, 2015

da:ns festival :: Sylvie Guillem

Put the name 'Sylvie Guillem' on the bill and regardless of what program she's dancing, I'll watch it. Titled 'Life in Progress', this performance is billed as Sylvie Guillem's final dance, her swansong world tour. I was going to fly out somewhere to watch this final program if da:ns festival didn't bring it in. In her acceptance speech for a special recognition at this year's Olivier Awardsshe said,

This represents 39 years of pleasure,’ she says...‘I was lucky because dance came to me, and I loved everything about it.

The show opened with the solo 'technê' choreographed by Akram Khan. It was accompanied by with live musicians on percussion (Prathap Ramachandra), beatboxing (Grace Savage) and violin (Emma Smith). Loved it. techné, the imperfection of human representation of nature. Of epistēmē. Her last collaboration with Akram Khan in 'Sacred Monsters' was so awesome, where it involved dialogue. Also slyly referring to Rudolf Nureyev whom she had affectionately called "a sacred monster". Sylvie Guillem is truly our era's objet d'art.

The evening's second piece was William Forsythe's 'DUO2015', performed by Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts. Good pairing and precision. It was more than simply a time-filler. I welcomed a different set of movements. Music was minimal; the first ten minutes of the dance was totally silent. We could hear how incredibly controlled and soft the landings were, and even the breathing of the dancers were in sync. It was fun.

The third piece 'Here and After' is a duet choreographed by Russell Maliphant. Sylvie Guillem partnered Italian dancer Emanuela Montanari from La Scala. It felt as though the music didn't matter, and the movements themselves led from one to the other in a disjointed, easy, messy, yet structured coherent flow. Even though I didn't think the piece particularly evocative, the dancing is always admired.

The night ended with a final solo- Mats Ek's 'Bye' that was choreographed especially for the star in 2011 and performed as part of '6000 miles away'. What an amazing show. Choosing to close the program with 'Bye' was poignant, and little painful. I've watched it in 2011, thrilled to be able to see it again. Tonight, it was particularly emotional. Of a woman (I refuse to use 'old') and her memories, of hope, resignation and deep pain. Of course the entire Esplanade Theatre gave her a standing ovation.

Sylvie Guillem is 50 years old. And as gorgeous as the first few times I saw her. There're many talented and good dancers, but few captivated my attention the way she does. She was the inspiration behind my youthful desire to pursue dance professionally. (Clearly I didn't because mother said no.) I've also enjoyed her contemporary works. She has dedicated four decades to dance. Like what she said in numerous interviews, "J’ai tout aimé de ces 39 ans." 

Indeed, Madame Non, as we have had the privilege of reveling in your decades. Au revoir, à une danseuse exceptionnelle. Merci pour toute la beauté.

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