Seeing a world in dance

Sylvie Guillem - 6000 Miles Away

Birmingham Hippodrome


IT begins with an eye in a door. It’s a huge eye which pretty much fills the door and it looks just a little startled. The film travels across the face taking in the other eye. And then the face slowly moves backwards until it becomes recognisable as dancer Sylvie Guillem.

Moments later her hands reach up and over the top of the entranceway and suddenly film and real life merge.

As she steps out from behind the screen which is the gateway, we see the former Paris Opera and Royal Ballet dancer looking somewhat dowdy in a floral blouse, green cardigan and mustard skirt.

Then, childlike, she takes her first steps away from security. For the next 20 minutes Guillem, pictured,  is like a little girl lost in a world of naiveté created by Mats Ek for his work Bye.

Set to a Beethoven piano sonata, it is a fun piece. At times the music has a jazz-like quality to it and Ek’s choreography takes on a ragtime staccato movement which plays with the rhythm. At others Guillem is totally static – whether in pose, lying on the floor or undertaking a jagged handstand.

Bye is the final piece in a triple bill performed at Birmingham Hippodrome at part of International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014. Produced by Guillem and Sadler’s Wells it sees the former ballerina equally comfortable with contemporary dance.

In Rearray, created by William Forsythe, Guillem is partnered by Massimo Murru in a work which showcases Guillem’s incredible control, fluidity and flexibility. It’s easy to see why Guillem, who trained as a gymnast before taking up dance, quickly caught the eye of the then Paris Opera artistic director Rudolf Nureyev. Decades later she is still an incredible force of talent and skill.

To a somewhat jarring score by David Morrow, the two dancers worked in tandem – at times reflecting each other’s movements, sometimes in synchronicity, sometimes not. And yet each time they pull apart they are inevitably drawn back together with a force of stage magnetism.

Opening the bill is Jiri Kylian’s 27’52” with music created by Dirk Haubrich with its basis in work by Mahler. This sees dancers Aurelie Cayla and Lukas Timulak dancing a series of intricate balances and lifts. As both divest their tops and naked skin takes over an element of homogeneity enters the picture – with each mirroring each other and switching places so seamlessly that at times it is difficult to see which arm or leg belongs to who.

It is a varied programme which sums up what IDFB is all about. With choreographers hailing from Czechoslovakia, Sweden and the USA and dancers from France, Italy and Slovakia this one production takes us round the globe in 90 minutes.

Add to that the fact that Guillem chose to call the production 6000 Miles Away in recognition of the Japanese who suffered the effects of the 2011 Tsunami and it certainly hits the ‘international’ target. To 07-05-14.

Diane Parkes



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