Had the great privilege of watching Sylvie Guillem for the first time ever last night, in her triple bill that premiered at Sadler's Wells July this year. 6000 Miles Away puts together a Forsythe premiere in Rearray for herself and Nicolas Le Riche; a 2002 Jiri Kylian piece 27'52" for Aurelie Kayla and Kenta Kojiri; and lastly a Mats Ek solo for Guillem in Bye.
So I've never personally been the largest Sylvie Guillem fan (partially because growing up as a young dancer and hearing her name, I thought she was equally legendary and equally retired as Anna Pavlova). Her style for some reason never resonated with me -- I know it sounds ridiculous but her mighty extensions have always sort of obstructed my view of the character underneath. That said I can sure well tell the difference between taste and talent though, and Ms Guillem is clearly one hell of a dancer.
And then, that being said, Rearray kind of bored me. I must confess I am a conservative traditionalist when it comes to music, I do need some rhythm to get into a piece, and couldn't fully appreciate the background of David Morrow's abstraction. The lights fade in and out as they dance about the stage, sometimes going so much as to cut off mid-stride and turn on again to find Le Riche still carrying on dancing. (And here's a nod to their skill for dancing in darkness.) The light play gives the piece an interesting episodic form, yet put-together, I'm not sure what the total message is. Not that there needs to be a message, but without it I was hoping for just a little more ingenuity with the steps... somewhat closer to what In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated would have offered.
27'52" was a slightly more palatable piece for me, and I am (as per viewing of Petite Mort on the venerable stage of YouTube) a fan of Jiri Kylian. I saw that same mixture of fluidity and frozen time in the piece, something which I suppose characterizes him. No clear narrative here either -- they dance, she removes her top, they continue to dance, and eventually are wrapped up in the stage's vinyl flooring. Sufficiently entertaining.
Bye was a totally different story though. It made my evening. There was clever play with cinematography, coupled with the narrative of a woman breaking out of her tepid, unnoticeable life to be a little wild and go a little crazy. The music -- complete with a little ragtime jive -- nicely affords this. It's almost a frantic desperation to explode, to express, to live, to ignite, within the brief space and time of uncensorship this woman affords herself. Guillem goes from standing on her head to executing a long, beautifully hyper-extended, gravity-defying grand jete, to nodding about rather ostrich-like. I found her to be fiercely intelligent during Wednesday's In Conversation interview, specific in her taste and insistent that a piece at its very least must change or provoke you, and this is the product.
ETA 22 Dec '11: Just received a Beethoven piano sonata CD and so incredibly delighted to find that the soundtrack to Bye was in fact Beethoven's Piano Sonata #32 in C minor. What an unbelievably eccentric piece. I have much to learn of Beethoven. I think now I have to give him lion's share of the credit instead of Mats Ek.