Rebel ballerinas. The two words may at first sound like the world’s greatest oxymoron. In tribute to the celebration of our country’s independence, this month’s posts will feature dancers and choreographers that are the living embodiments of independent artistry.
Sylvie Guillem may well be the greatest ballerina ever- but she is known just as well for her unexpected departure from the ballet world to pursue Modern dance. A rebel at heart, her non-conformist approach meant that after leaving the Royal Ballet, she refused to be aligned with any particular company as she moved into contemporary dance.
Guillem became an étoile dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet when she was 19, and now at the age of 46, she continues to create and perform new works… her way… at an age when most other dancers have long since retired.
She was blessed with every gift a dancer could possibly hope for: perfectly arched feet, long, lithe legs that are so flexible they brush her ears at the peak of her extensions, a well-proportioned strong physique, flawless technique. But it is her energy and passion, her artistry and intelligence that define her as the dancer that choreographers still yearn to work with. Choreographer Mats Ek says simply, ‘She has a blue flame within her.’
She gained the nickname Mademoiselle Non during her years in the Royal Ballet when an argument with Kenneth MacMillan was accidentally broadcast over the opera house speakers for all to hear. Although her tenure with the company was far from short (1988-2000), she left when she realized what she ‘could not take there she would do somewhere else.’
But does she ever think of stopping? ‘Mais, oui,’ she says, looking astonished. ‘All the time, and for many, many years. And sometimes you think, why do I do all of this? Because you feel a little bit lost, a bit tired. But then you wake up a bit more and you go and you are excited by what you do.’ She pauses to consider how to describe what drives her on. ‘It’s because when finally you achieve something, then you are alive and you did something that only you can do.
She performs this week through July 9th at Sadler’s Wells in London. For more information, click here.