Sylvie Guillem stretches out
By Joel Lobenthal
Even Sylvie Guillem’s not doing it anymore, so ballerinas everywhere can just put their legs down (a bit)—can’t they? That was one takeaway from Guillem’s concert at the Koch theater early this month, presented by the Joyce Theater Foundation.
Now 47, Guillem put her pointe shoes back on last year to dance Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon once more at La Scala. But her current program, entitled 6,000 Miles Away, is a sampling of the modern repertory she’s pursued in recent years. In New York, Guillem was charismatic and authoritative. And whether because of diminished athletic capacity—which I doubt—or simply due to artistic strategy, she was eschewing her notoriously overworked extensions.
Guillem switched to ballet from gymnastics at age 11, and it’s perhaps her background that propelled her, as the teenaged darling of then-Paris Opera Ballet artistic director Rudolf Nureyev, to define herself by a signature stunt. She raised her legs so high that they grazed her head, causing untold havoc to the equilibrium of classical alignment.
What should have been seen for what it was, one very young dancer’s assertion of individuality and rebellion against protocol, instead became something of a global gospel. Ballerinas around the world have ever since been similarly contorting themselves and the classical aesthetic in the process. At the Koch, however, Guillem’s own extensions remained smooth, high and beautiful, but no longer transgressive or stunt-like.
The program opened with Rearray, a Guillem commission from William Forsythe, for whom she is the perfect instrument/collaborator. His deconstruction and collagist reimagining of classical imagery resonates with her own kinetic instincts and provides an appropriate context for them. Here, she hooked up with La Scala’s odd and interesting Massimo Murru, with whom New York saw her dance Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand as guests with London’s Royal Ballet during its 2004 season at the Met.
To read the full article at CityArts click here.
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