Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sadler's Wells: Push. Works by Russell Maliphant. With Sylvie Guillem. (Melbourne Festival)

People sitting on either side of me at Her Majesty’s Theatre last night used the line “in her prime” about Sylvie Guillem, both expressed some regret that they hadn’t seen Guillem at the ‘peak’ of her career. I’m hoping after last night’s show that neither has any lingering regrets about not seeing her at the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s or the Royal Ballet in the 1990s.

Given the choice between seeing Guillem’s Giselle (or her Odette and Odile) and the two ten minute solos we saw last night... hell, I don’t think I’d trade either of the solos for any of the name roles. Not even to see her starring in Billy Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated in 1987.

It’s difficult to imagine Guillem dancing better than she did last night, in Push, a programme of solos and a duet choreographed by -- and performed with -- Russell Maliphant.

In the solos, in particular, the 48 year-old Guillem was beyond superlatives. By any standards, by any critical criterion or criteria normally applied to balletic dance, her performance was heightened. Her centredness, her musicality, her facility, her control... I hesitate to use the word ‘perfection’, because Guillem -- at this level -- is somehow beyond perfection. In the same way, she is beyond beauty.

Yeah, I know the feeling. Stage door, last night.

Watching Guillem, one understands how the Ancient Greek philosophers were compelled to come up with a theory of forms. All we can do, in the mortal world, is aspire to some ideal -- some ontological concept of perfection -- that is, by definition, unattainable.

To describe Guillem’s performance as beautiful, or perfect, rather misses the point. She’s a wraith-like manifestation of something transcendent. Even that idea falls laughably short of the mark. Guillem’s dancing in the solos, her presence in the solos, was like the imaginings of perfection itself. Like perfection thinking out loud.

What’s that hoary old line, a variation of Karl Barth’s quotation about angels en famille? When angels play for humans, they play Beethoven. When they play for the gods, they play Bach. But when they play for each other, they play Mozart.

Well, last night was angel-to-angel dancing. It was an inestimable privilege to witness it.

The second/final performance of Push is tonight. A second programme, 6000 Miles Away, featuring works by William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián and Mats Ek, is at Her Majesty’s on Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 5 o’clock.

Push. Four works by Russell Maliphant with lighting by Michael Hulls. Performed by Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant. Produced by Sadler’s Wells. Melbourne Festival. Her Majesty's Theatre, October 23.

Russell Maliphant (photograph © Chris Boyd)

Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant present a free talk as part of the Artists in Conversation series on Friday 25 October at 1pm at the Festival Hub.

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Blogger Nakis said...

I am glad that you enjoyed the show. Beautifully expressed about Sylvie's incomparable art. I am under her spell for about 18 or so years now. The first time I saw her she was dancing Bejart's Sissi, La Luna, Le Bolero as well as the Pas de Deux of Herman Shermann by Forsythe. Then so many wonderful memories, in Paris, the Royal Ballet, Venise, Florence, or Milan. Giselle, Manon, Juliet, Marguerite, Carmen, Princess Aurora, Broken Fall, Push, Eonnagata, Sacred Monsters, 6000 miles away etc. How to sum up her art. The very essence of Beauty, Grace. To my eyes and not just mine, she is the ultimate dancer ever. Everything one hopes to see on stage and much, much more. I remember with awe her latest Manon at La Scala in 2011. Insurpassable. I tend to think that she improves with time, if that is possible by her standards. After Australia she will be in Japan with Sacred Monsters and Mats Ek's Carmen and then during Christmas time she will be in Athens with Marguerite et Armand and Sacred Monsters. What a privilege it is to live in the same age as this incomparable artist. We are blessed indeed.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Thanks you so much, Nakis... we are blessed. (You more than many!)

Grace is the word. :D

3:07 PM  

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