Sylive Guillem will be in Venice tomorrow to receive from the Biennale the Leone d’oro (Golden Lion) for “having redesigned the form of the dancer, defying the laws of physics”.
I could have ended up like a cork bobbing along on the water at the whim of the currents. Instead I preferred to take the helm and steer my life into the open sea and its storms.
When Nureyev nominated me étoile at the Paris Opera when I was 19 it would have been, for many dancers, the maximum aspiration, but not for me. It was only the beginning of a dream that I’m still living through.
I will continue to dance as long as it gives me satisfaction, then I’ll move on to something else. I’ll devote myself to environmental groups or open a dogs’ home. Who knows!
Her sobriquet ‘Mademoiselle Non’, which the British press quickly gave her on learning of her infamous temperament, was inspired by ‘Monsieur Non’ himself:
Nureyev was intransigent and I learnt a lot from him. Too much security and comfort is the death of art, it’s better to stay constantly on the precipice. The most fertile periods of creativity are in times of crisis. To be at its best, dance must have a high level of necessity, of severity.
Today I see theatres in the hands of bureaucrats, like in the film Brazil: La Scala, for example. I said publicly the last time I was in Milan for Manon in 2011, that I would return, but on certain conditions… I’ve heard nothing further from them. Fortunately, Italy is an incredible country, it seems that everything is going badly then, miraculously, things seem to turn around. I love it also for this.
After reading that, La Scala’s Artistic Director Stéphane Lissner is surely drawing up a contract right now! Guillem doesn’t worry; after having largely left the classical repertory her modern choreographic ventures have largely been largely overseen by Sadler’s Wells Theatre in her old home, London (she is now based in Switzerland).
I leave the organisation to Sadler’s Wells in London. But I don’t think about marketing, and I don’t dance to be recognised in the street: dance alone must be enough.
While opening a dogs’ home may never happen, she is already involved in various causes.
I’ve given my backing to Sea Shepherd, a marine wildlife conservation organization, to fight against whale hunting. Non-profit organisations today fill the role that politics has turned its back on. Even if it is a Utopia from Don Quixote I like to devote my time to them, with the same commitment that I have for my dance.
Photo: Sylvie Guillem as Manon at Teatro alla Scala in 2011, by Graham Spicer