Jan 302011

Guillem Murru Manon The guile and pathos of Guillems Manon: Sylvie Guillems triumphant return to La ScalaAfter con­cen­trat­ing on con­tem­por­ary dance, and mostly new works, since leav­ing  the Kitris and Odettes with which she made her name, has made a sur­prise return to the full-length nar­rat­ive bal­let with one of her most cel­eb­rated roles. After hav­ing not worn pointe shoes for almost a year the decision was cer­tainly some­thing of a gamble. In the ori­ginal pro­gram­ming she was to altern­ate the role of with — “the new Guillem”: could it have been a per­sonal chal­lenge, a desire to remind audi­ences who the real Guillem is?

With or without Zakhar­ova, there was ten­sion in the house as fans waited to see how she could match up to the hard­est con­front­a­tion of all, that of her­self in the same role in , six years ago. Then she was partenered, as now, by and with a sur­pris­ing début from as Mon­sieur GM. The applause was deafening.

There was no reason to be appre­hens­ive: Guillem has returned bet­ter than ever. Maybe her con­tem­por­ary dan­cing has given her new per­spect­ives, maybe a break from this rep­er­toire has given her fresh insights: whatever, we’re grate­ful that she has given us these mem­or­ising and mem­or­able per­form­ances at .

Guillem con­trols every inch of her body, from her eyes to her toes. Noth­ing is cas­ual, each move­ment has a pur­pose. With such a wide range of emo­tions to play with, Manon is a gift to a dan­cer cap­able of extract­ing all the pos­sib­il­it­ies of the char­ac­ter and com­mu­nic­at­ing each nuance to her audi­ence. Guillem is one of those dancers.

It is not her won­der­ful feet, or her eleg­ant line, or her haz­ard­ous leaps that have the greatest effect, but her abil­ity to play with dynam­ics and her moment­ary sus­pen­sions, the qual­it­ies which can be expressed only when all the rest is firmly under con­trol. This was a les­son in dan­cing from a dancer’s dan­cer (and there were quite a few fam­ous col­leagues among the audi­ence), a woman at the top of her craft who can com­bine artistic matur­ity with a tech­nique still cap­able of express­ing her wishes. This is rare. We were lucky.

  10 Responses to “The guile and pathos of Guillem’s Manon: Sylvie Guillem’s triumphant return to La Scala”

  1. […] This post was men­tioned on Twit­ter by The Bal­let Bag and Lorry Trujillo Perez, Gra­ham Spicer. Gra­ham Spicer said: The guile and pathos of Guillem’s Manon: Sylvie Guillem’s tri­umphant return to La Scala: After con­cen­trat­ing on … […]

  2. I was at La Scala for the première of “L’histoire de Manon” with Sylvie Guillem and it was in every sense of the word an unfor­get­table exper­i­ence. Even while enter­ing the pres­ti­gi­ous theatre of La Scala one was aware that this was a very spe­cial event indeed. Was I appre­hens­ive too? Yes, with no doubt. I was scared to death. Ador­ing Sylvie like I do, still I was won­der­ing. Would she be able to pull it off? I had already seen Sylvie in her incom­par­able Manon three times before this per­form­ance, the first being in 1998 for her tri­umphant return at the Paris Opera at the Pal­ais Garnier where she por­trayed the part with the mar­vel­lous Laurent Hilaire.

    But from the moment she entered the stage magic worked like a mir­acle and my fears were gone. I have never seen or heard an audi­ence wel­com­ing a per­former on stage like they did at La Scala for Sylvie’s entrance with such thun­der­ous applause. Every­one was thrilled to see her again on stage, espe­cially in this won­der­ful bal­let, one of her sig­na­ture roles. Her dan­cing was divine but what really impresses always is how fluid and nat­ural it all seems. Every single move­ment seems to occupy the entire space of the stage, every single exten­sion is part of the dra­matic char­ac­ter­isa­tion of the part of Manon. Guillem a dan­cer of genius has only deepened her char­ac­ter­isa­tion of Manon over the years. And she is such a great actress-dancer. Every single expres­sion of her face, her hands, everything tells us some­thing about Manon’s free and naïve nature, her inner con­flicts, her desire to be loved by De Grieux but also unable to res­ist the tempta­tions of a lux­ury life.

    Dur­ing the brothel scene she danced her solo (I believe it is called Manon’s vari­ation) and you could feel that no one was breath­ing in the audi­ence. Every­one was sus­pen­ded at her move­ments, her seduc­tion, her charm. And at the end someone cried from the audi­ence “Divina!” and every­one burst into applause. A won­der­ful, unfor­get­table moment. Her death scene will cer­tainly remain one of the greatest moments in dance, a heart­break­ing, mag­ni­fi­cent moment of des­per­a­tion and vir­tu­oso dan­cing which seems to be caught in a moment of etern­ity. Sylvie’s part­ner was the won­der­ful Massimo Murru from the Scala. A won­der­ful, true magic couple. The even­ing was a great tri­umph, every­one rose to his feet and applauded like mad and Sylvie was the Divina of that night. At the stage door there was such a crowd wait­ing to see her, to take her pho­to­graph and sign auto­graphs and Sylvie was truly happy to have this warm con­tact with her audi­ence again. When I told her that it was such a won­der­ful magical exper­i­ence to see her again as Manon, even more so at La Scala, such a myth­ical, pres­ti­gi­ous theatre she smiled and said mali­ciously and charm­ingly (Oui c’est mon théâtre), “Oh yes it is my theatre”. She is right. One could feel that she was indeed at home that night. The tri­umphant return of an artist of genius to a legendary part, in a myth­ical theatre. Merci Sylvie.

    • This is the best com­ment on a blog I have ever read. What a mar­vel­lous review. Thank you.

      She really was magical wasn’t she, so she deserves all your words. Unfor­get­table even­ings (there is the third and last tomor­row) which La Scala and its pub­lic need. Thank you Mlle Non for say­ing “Oui”!

  3. Thank you so much for your kind words. Your review was simply mar­vel­lous and made me live the unfor­get­table even­ing all over again. Did you attend the première on Janu­ary 27th or was it the Sat­urday 29th of Janu­ary per­form­ance (or both?)? If I could I would have stayed and watch all three per­form­ances of Sylvie but unfor­tu­nately since I live in France I had to leave. But what an indelible, unfor­get­table exper­i­ence. You are right. We are all etern­ally grate­ful that “Mademois­elle Non” said “oui” this time for La Scala and Manon.

    • I was at the Sat­urday per­form­ance as I was out of Milan for the 27th, and can­not go tonight for her third and last Manon, alas! Brava Sylvie!

  4. its very really nice and suc­ces­full to enjoy that, thak you for the inform­a­tion, rgs Mr ulises pacheco sanchez


  6. Merci Fabio, not a critic though, “juste un amoureux” of Sylvie’s incom­par­able art.

    • Another crit that I’ve only just seen: Debra Craine in The Times:
      “Guillem’s flawed heroine is a creature of effort­less glam­our who doesn’t need fur or a dia­mond neck­lace to exude chic soph­ist­ic­a­tion. In the bed­room she is alive with the glow of intense romantic attrac­tion, but how quickly she turns cold and cal­cu­lat­ing at the pro­spect of Mon­sieur G. M.’s more mater­i­al­istic attrac­tions. As for her dan­cing, every shape that Guillem made with the cho­reo­graphy was supremely eleg­ant and exquis­itely judged. Until the end, when close to death in the Louisi­ana swamps, she etched the phys­ical lux­ury of her dan­cing with a pro­found des­pair. When death came, sud­denly, sharply, you shared with Des Grieux the pain of such beauty extin­guished.“
      And fin­ishes with:
      “A night to remem­ber all round.”

  7. Debra Craine is right “A night to remem­ber all round”. She has fol­lowed Guillem’s career for years and her views are always intel­li­gent and sens­it­ive. I was glad to see that Brit­ish crit­ics went to La Scala to cover this excep­tion­nal and extraordin­ary event.
    I was won­der­ing though where were the French? Through all these years Sylvie is dan­cing abroad, scor­ing great tri­umphs very rarely have I seen her nat­ive France send a journ­al­ist to cover an event with Sylvie. A shame.
    I was won­der­ing also if you have any echos about the other couple of per­formers Olesia Novikova who I believe made her debut in La Scala with Roberto Bolle.

Please feel free to comment on what you've read...