Various off-stage dramas lead up to Sylvie Guillem’s participation in MaggioDanza’s Great Choreographers programme. The second performance became the première after strike action cancelled Monday’s performance. Worth the wait? You bet!
Guillem danced in William Forsythe’s Steptext, with pointe shoes and a bright red leotard. Nowhere to hide, with vertical and lateral lighting revealing every bone and muscle movement. Yes, her legs still travel effortlessly up to her ears, but Guillem’s dancing was always about so much more than that. The famous 6 o’clock position was natural for her, like her impish grin and beautiful feet. It was never a gymnastic position which is impressive… but so what? It is one of her many tools of expression.
Guillem doesn’t throw her leg up, but moves it up; it is motion that is judged and controlled. She moves her legs rather like an opera singer passes from note to note, with a portamento that varies from aria to aria depending on the context and mood. Guillem uses her body’s stunning capabilities to convey something, not to wow the audience by the mechanics of what it can do.
She is now 48, but nothing was less than it should have been. Three first-class boys from the MaggioDanza company were with her, but Guillem comes from a different planet. In an evening plagued with technical problems (including an awful audio mishap at the beginning of Jiří Kylián’s Sechs Tänze, caused by the same sound technicians who were responsable for the cancellation of the first night!), Guillem’s excellence shone like a beacon.