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Sylvie Guillem and her view of ballet, dance, life.

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I’ll do my limited best with putting across the flavour & essentials of this interview with Sylvie Guillem. For clarification I’ll add the odd notes in brackets.

It was recorded on the occasion of her being “awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 8th International Festival of Contemporary Dance (Venice, 8 > 24 June 2012). The decision was made by the Board of Directors of the Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, upon recommendation of the artistic director for the Dance sector, Ismael Ivo. The awards ceremony for the Golden Lion will be held during the Festival, on 20 June in the Sala delle Colonne at Ca’ Giustinian, the headquarters of the Biennale In the past, the award for Lifetime Achievement has been won by Merce Cunningham (1995), Carolyn Carlson (2006), Pina Bausch (2007), Jirí Kylián (2008) and William Forsythe (2010”. [http://www.labiennale.org/en/dance/news/12-05.html)].


Sylvie [born 1965]arrived at dancing by chance. She was a keen gymnast, and did sport and dance as well. Aged 11 she went with two other girls to the Paris Opers Ballet School “to try to be more feminine” and not just strong gymnasts. Gym was freer than dance, an athletic game, even though there were competitions it wasn’t serious, whereas dance was very serious and at first she did not enjoy it. At the end of her first year in the annual performance at the back of the stage, not doing much, she suddenly realised that performance & dance was what she wanted to explore. She decided to continue to see where it would lead’. She’d never seen a ballet on stage, but then she saw Coppelia and saw how the dancers needed to think about their work and put across feelings to the audience. Ballet & POB School was for her! [sylvie became a member of the corps de ballet at 16, in 1981, & in Dec. 1984 an étoile!!]


She was then asked how she came to contemporary dance and worked with William Forsythe & Maurice Bejart. She said this was due to the miracle that was Nureyev [appointed Director POB 1983] He had a very open mind/spirit and opened doors to many incredible things. She began to have much wide ranging experience very young , instead of having to wait until much older as was normal for an étoile – she had an appetite to do everything, try things on stage with her young person’s energy& passion. Rudolf was older, a fantastic example to the dancers, with lots of energy too. She began to see the importance of doing other things as well as classical balllet. Rudolf felt that all types of dance should be done & not a particular type of dance for a particular type of public. She has tried to maintain this openness right until the present time.


The interviewer asked about London. There is historic rivalry between London & Paris. Did she make a choice to go to London? She left Paris with nothing. She said what she wanted, more freedom to dance outside Paris, but didn’t get it, as they said that if they did it for her, others would want the same. Even though she said she would leave, it was assumed that she would stay, as if the ballet world was only Paris . She thought that if she found something she would keep on dancing, otherwise she’s do something else. Two weeks later, the administarator from Royal Ballet visited her, having heard what was afoot, & offered the sort of contract she wanted, with freedom to do other things. So it was a choice in that sense, but not a pre-planned decision or choice.


More another day perhaps!

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Thanks very much, Arky.


I guess that Sylvie Guillem is much more upfront in the UK consciousness that in the US where I come from. I, for one, have not followed her very closely since I've never had a chance to see her perform. She still seems to have a wide following in France based on the ballet internet interest that I've noticed.


I've seen a few video clips of her doing classical works and I've been very impressed, but I've never watched them carefully. There is so much great talent that it can't all be appreciated as much as it should be.


About two weeks ago I happened to watch an internet video clip of her dancing Maurice Bejart's "Bolero". I'd just seen his own company perform it -- but not like this! Wow! She immediately went on my list (subject to constant revision) as one of the best dancers ever!


I'm still a fan of the more lyrically graceful school of dance, in the same way that Simon and Garfunkel remain one of my favorite 'rock' groups, but the way that she can burn up a stage is amazing.


I posted this comment here before at another topic, but it so well seems to describe her that I would like to post it again.


"Sylvie Guillem is the archetype for today’s tall, super-flexible ballerinas. She, too, was cold. In fact she struck me as a frigid supermodel, dancing Nikiya when she first guested with ABT at the Met long ago. But her physical and auric presence were mesmerizing. My friend watching with me said, “I pity anyone who shares the stage with her.” The force of her will and intelligence — manifested in how she shaped her body, extended balances, and the arc of her performance — drew in the audience. Her “Giselle” was a statuesque Wonder Woman (she adjusted the choreography in Act II). Not for a moment did I believe her as a frail peasant who needed a man (or anyone, for that matter) to validate her. She’s cold but she pierces your mind and more, if not your heart. One cannot help but admire her controversial genius."


(comment by Richard)


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Not surprisingly, your comments had me looking for & finding that Bolero on You Tube, Quite something!!


By coincidence I see that under Dance links w/b Sunday July 15, 2012, Review – Paris Opera Ballet, Triple Bill: Tobi Tobias, Arts Journal, that there is a write up of Bolero. I wish I'd been there to see Lifar's Suite en Blanc with Aurélie Dupont also. I saw a performance of it by ENB earlier this year, which was stunning.


Just found Aurélie Dupont in extracts from Suite en blanc on You Tube


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