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Sylvie Guillem in ‘Life In Progress,’ and a Farewell Tour – Dance Review

Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, November 16, 2015 

Sylvie Guillem, the celebrated, international dancer, a former étoile (principal dancer) of the Paris Opera Ballet and a creative force in the dance world, is giving a farewell tour — so she says. She says she wants to perform in public while she is able to do so. Many of us have seen dancers who are on stage well past their prime. It can be a very disheartening sight. But despite the fact that she is actually 50 years old, Guillem is still an étoile (literally, a star). She is one of those special performers who command the stage just by standing on it. But she is still very physically capable. During this program, she performed high extensions and difficult movements on her knees. And she still dances with fluidity, with clarity, and with those wonderfully expressive feet. What a joy to watch her move!

The last piece was titled Bye (choreographed by veteran Mats Ek), but when it was over, the members of the audience clearly didn’t want to say “goodbye.” They rose to their feet as one body and cheered and applauded, demanding that Guillem appear, again and again, for several curtain calls. And fans reached up to the stage and handed her flowers, which she accepted graciously and with a happy smile.

During the evening, she danced in three of the four pieces presented, two solos and one duet, all modern choreography: Techné by Akram Khan (interesting, but formless), Here & After by Russell Maliphant (noisy and repetitive — which she danced with Emanuela Montanari), and Bye (gently humorous).

The fourth piece, DUO2015, a clever and engaging work by William Forsyth, was performed by the wonderful dancers, Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts. I enjoyed it the most of all the choreography presented.

Even in less than enthralling choreography, Sylvie Guillem is a special treat to watch, and I will be disappointed if she sticks to her statement and never performs in a public venue again. Nonetheless, I know that she will use her talents, her intelligence, her creative energy and her iconoclastic tendencies to do something interesting in the last stage of her life in progress. I look forward to whatever that may be.

Sylvie Guillem – Life in Progress at New York City Center, with Sylvie Guillem, Emanuela Montanari, Brigel Gjoka, and Riley Watts.  Co-produced by China Shanghai International Arts Festival, Les Nuits de Fourvière, and Sylvie Guile.


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