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