Sat, Apr 05, 2014 - Page 12 News List

A French star with a perfect line

Sylvie Guillem remains a fascinating performer eight years after she hung up her point shoes at the Royal Ballet in London to carve out a second career in the barefoot world of contemporary dance

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

French ballerina Sylvie Guillem will perform Swedish choreographer Mats Ek’s BYE on April 12 and 13 at the National Theater in Taipei as part of “6000 Miles Away.”

Photo: Courtesy of Lesley Leslie-Spinks and Art Wave Inc

In organizing the International Ballet Star Galas over the past seven years, Wang Tzer-shing (王澤馨) has worked with many of the great names in the ballet world. But she says she cannot wait for next weekend’s shows at the National Theater. Wang’s Art Wave Inc is bringing French ballerina extraordinaire Sylvie Guillem’s 6000 Miles Away program to Taipei for two performances.

“Sylvie Guillem is one of my idols. She’s an idol for many professional dancers. I have never seen her live... I remember seeing her in a video when I was a student. Back then, there was no Internet; I still remember — she was with the Paris Opera Ballet, [Rudolf] Nureyev choreographed Cinderella for her. I watched the video over and over,” Wang said in an interview on Wednesday.

It was Nureyev who first brought Guillem to the dance world’s attention, making her his protegee and, in December 1984, naming her the Paris company’s youngest ever etoile or star. She was just 19 and had only been promoted to the rank of premiere danseuse a few days earlier.

She became famous for her height, her flexibility — which had been helped by her early training as a gymnast, her “6 o’clock” extensions (a perfect vertical line) and her headstrong nature, which led her to quit the Paris company in 1989, jump the Channel and become a principal guest artist with Britain’s Royal Ballet.

Over the next 17 years as she headlined with the London troupe she also performed as a freelancer, working with a variety of choreographers and companies, as well as staging several ballets. Upon her retirement from the Royal in 2006, she followed in the footsteps of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and began to carve out a second career in the world of contemporary dance. Her choice of collaborators, such as Akram Khan, show a desire to break down boundaries and continue to push herself.

Performance notess

What: 6000 Miles Away

When: Saturday, April 12 at 7:30pm and Sunday, April 13 at 3pm

Where: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

Admission: only NT$2,200 to NT$4,800 tickets left; available at NTCH box offices, online at and at 7-Eleven ibon kiosks and other convenience chain store ticketing kiosks

“I am glad she’s still dancing so we have a chance to see her dance live. She is 49, but her abilities are still there,” Wang said.

She said she had been trying to bring Guillem to Taiwan for several years.

“6000 Miles Away is her most recent program and she has performed it in many cities around the world. I have heard good things about it, especially Bye, her solo,” Wang said.

“[Guillem] doesn’t have an agent. 6000 was produced by Sadler’s Wells [where Guillem is an associate artist] and Sylvie. So I contacted the theater about trying to bring it to Taipei. I was surprised they said yes ... and I was very happy that she also said yes,” Wang said.

Two of the programs three dances were commissioned in 2011. Germany-based US choreographer William Forsythe created Rearray (排列組合), the fourth duet he has made for Guillem. It was while they were working on it in London that Japan was rocked by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that killed almost 16,000 people. That led Guillem to title the program 6000 Miles Away as a tribute to the people of Japan.

Guillem will be partnered in Rearray with the Italian dancer Massimo Murru, an etoile with La Scala Theatre Ballet.

The second duet on the program will be familiar to dance fans who saw Kylworks at the National Theater in February, when Aurelie Cayla and Lukas Timulak danced Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian’s 14’ 20”, an excerpt of a longer work titled 27’52”.

The third work is a solo for Guillem by Swedish choreographer Mats Ek and also the third dance he has created for her. Bye (再會), set to the last piano sonata that Ludwig van Beethoven wrote.

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