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Sylvie Guillem

'6000 miles away'

by David Mead

July 5, 2011 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, Theatre, London, UK

To steal a line from a song, “There’s something in the way she moves”. ‘She’ is Sylvie Guillem who stormed back to the stage in “6000 miles away” (a reference to Japan, a country she loves), an evening of dance that held the Sadler’s Wells audience spellbound from beginning to end. Guillem, now 46, still has amazing assurance, class, even chic. Is there another dancer who can even make something as simple as a roll of a shoulder look so interesting? And she makes everything look so easy too. You couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for Nicholas Le Riche, her partner in “Rearray” and a real class act himself, as the eyes were forever drawn to her.

“Rearray” is a new 25-minute duet by William Forsythe. The dark jeans and T-shirts may have been unflattering, but their very ordinariness only served to emphasise how outstanding was the choreography and the performance. The ballet is Forsythe at his best and quite hypnotic to watch.

The opening minutes are constantly interrupted by moments of darkness that sometimes happen at surprising moments and that interrupt the flow of the dance. It was like watching snippets of a conversation in movement. Although the murky lighting and David Morrow’s spare score gives a sense of the austere, the dance itself is packed with interest. It is full of extreme changes of speed and direction in amongst more sensuous and subtle unfurling of arms and legs. Occasionally the two dancers reference each other, Le Riche bringing a new dynamic to essentially the same moment. There are glimpses of ballet virtuosity. There are a few juicy arabesques, some fast beats and recognisable poses, but in typical Forsythe style they only last a second before things are turned on their head, both dancers twisting or adjusting a leg, sometimes using their own arm to instigate the change. Limbs even seem to exchange roles at some points.

There is far more narrative drama in “Bye” (also known by its Swedish title “Ajö”), another new work made on Guillem by Mats Ek and danced to Beethoven’s last piano sonata. It is ostensibly a solo, although a large part is played by black and white projections on to a screen the size of a door.

First we see Guillem’s eyes in close-up, then her face. But it is a face full of memories. Eventually she breaks free from her film prison. Dressed in floral print blouse, green jacket, bright yellow skirt and purple ankle socks she looks like a refugee from the past. A sense of looking back pervades everything. She seems to be searching, maybe for her lost youth. She often reaches out or cradles imaginary objects. Everything is a struggle. The dance is quirky and eccentric, although it becomes slowly more sprightly, especially after she dispenses with her cardigan, shoes and socks. She has found freedom at last, or has she? Because, now the screen is like a window. A man watches her, then a child, a dog, and finally a crowd, her family perhaps, that slowly gathers. She recognises them as the silently call her back. Eventually she succumbs, and with one last look, squeezes her way back into the picture.

Sandwiched in between the Forsythe and Ek was a duet from Jiri Kylian’s “27’32”, performed by former NDT dancers Aurélie Cayla and Kenta Kojiri. It is an elegant and sexy duet, full of expression and contrast. The control of both dancers was supreme. Sometimes it was as if someone had hit the pause button so still were momentary stillnesses that often followed a speedy move. Kojiri’s size belies his strength. Every lift looked absolutely effortless, each ending in a sculptural pose. Right up to the final moment when each is ‘buried’ beneath the dance floor the whole dance was packed with meaning, although as is Kylian’s want, he leaves it for us to decide exactly what it, and the relationship between the couple, might be.

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