LONDON Love&Hate 愛と憎しみのロンドン

Home未分類 | Dance | Sylvie Guillem | Royal Ballet | Royal Opera | Counselling | Sightseeing | Overseas Travel | Life in London(Good) | Life in London(Bad) | Japan (Nihon) | Bartoli | Royal Families | British English | Gardens | Songs | Psychology | Babysitting | Politics | Multiculture | Society | Writing Jobs | About this blog | Opera Ballet | News | Arts | Food | 07/Jul/2005 | Job Hunting | Written In English | Life in London (so so) | Speak to myself | Photo(s) of the day | The Daily Telegraph | The Guardian | BBC | Other sources | BrokenBritain | Frog/ Kaeru | Theatre | Books | 11Mar11 | Stage | Stamps | Transport | Summer London 2012 | Weather | Okinawa | War is crime | Christoph Prégardien | Cats | Referendum 23rd June | Brexit | Mental Health 






Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan in Sacred Monsters – in pictures



Sylvie Guillem on her life in ballet

Debra Craine
Published at 12:01AM, December 5 2014

Ballet dancers are an obedient lot. From the rigours of intensive childhood training to the requirements of working in a big dance company, they are constantly being told what to do and when to do it. Yet every so often a dancer breaks free from the leash to take control of her own career and none has done so more spectacularly than Sylvie Guillem.

She walked away from the Paris Opera Ballet — where she had achieved the highest rank at the age of 19 — because she didn’t like the way they were inhibiting her choices as an artist. Seventeen years later, having established herself as Covent Garden’s biggest star and having earned the right to call the shots, she quit the Royal Ballet because she didn’t like the way the company was being run. And now, after an extraordinarily creative second career as an acclaimed contemporary dancer, this indomitable redhead has announced that she is retiring from the stage in 2015.

She will be 50 next year, a great age for a dancer, and although others have lasted as long in the spotlight — Margot Fonteyn famously went on into her sixties — none has matched the resilience of Guillem’s haute physique. I’ve always been impressed by the voluptuous expanse and serious intent of her dancing. And I’m impressed again, having seen her recently in Sacred Monsters, her collaboration with Akram Khan at Sadler’s Wells. Elegance, charisma and a remarkable ease in front of an audience — none of that has dimmed with age.

We have met many times before but never have I seen her so relaxed and, ironically, so impassioned as today. I wonder if it comes from having finally decided to stop, an often painful milestone that dancers are reluctant to face. It’s morning and Guillem, dressed down and devoid of make-up, is brimming with confidence and certainty.

“I have seen examples of dancers who stop because of injury, because of the psychological strain, who have to go because of their pensions, and I have seen people who stayed on stage too long,” she says as we share a quiet table at a central London hotel. “Why retire now? Because I am the only one who can take the decision and I don’t want to take it too late. I still love what I do and the way I do it and I don’t want less than that, less than the pleasure and the passion I have had for all those years. I know the time is right.”

It’s hard to believe that all her emotional energy won’t find an outlet somewhere on the stage post-retirement. “I don’t want to make a comeback, that’s for sure,” she says, “but maybe go on stage differently: why not? It all depends on the project. If someone brings me something that excites me . . . Theatre is something I love and talking on stage is something I might be able to do.”

She is bowing out with Life in Progress, a special programme at Sadler’s Wells in May (which to the dismay of many fans has already sold out) that will feature works by choreographers dear to her heart — Russell Maliphant, Mats Ek, William Forsythe and Khan. “I’m going to miss dance a lot, that’s for sure,” she says, “but I have my life, which has been in the background, and I want the chance to see if there is something else out there. I want to give it some time to see how I react, how I see life in a different way, and maybe things will come to me. I can’t plan anything because I’m completely useless at planning.”

That comes as a surprise because she has always been the most determined and self-determining of dancers and surely that takes a lot of planning? “Nothing was calculated in my career,” she says. “I made choices but usually they were drastic and very fast ones. I seized doors as they opened.”

It takes a special kind of talent to open those doors in the first place and Guillem’s was evident from the start. She studied gymnastics as a child and was shortlisted for the French Olympic team, but a visit to the Paris Opera Ballet School changed her focus on to dance. She graduated into the Paris Opera Ballet, was spotted by director Rudolf Nureyev and after her debut in Swan Lake was promoted to étoile at 19 — the youngest in the company’s history.

Leaving the Paris Opera was one of those sudden decisions that has informed her life. “I was unhappy with my situation. They were stopping me from searching and discovering other things. When you are an étoile of the Paris Opera at 19 your world is very small; you think nothing else exists. Then you discover by chance that there is a lot around. It is thanks to Rudolf. He was an example to me of freedom, of no compromise, of someone following his passion. Was he furious when I left Paris? Yes, in a way, but I’m sure he knew I needed to do it.”

Decamping to the Royal Ballet in 1989 turned out to be an astute career move for the headstrong étoile. “Rudolf talked to me about the repertoire in London — Manon, Month in the Country — and I was excited because for me in Paris there was no theatre, only fantastic technique. I wanted to experience the theatrical side of performing.”

She found what she was looking for in the ballets of the Royal’s two defining choreographers: Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan. She was their Juliet, Manon, Marguerite, Natalia Petrovna: naturalistic heroines rooted in dramatic stories that she brought to vibrant life. Although she danced the 19th-century classics, most notably Swan Lake, they were never her métier, perhaps because she couldn’t identify with their less self-realised female characters.

She arrived at the Royal Opera House in knee-high, lace-up leather boots, a bowler hat and a blaze of publicity. Life was hard at first. “I guess when there is a lot of noise around you, you are not always very welcome. That’s human nature. Also, I was not speaking English very well and that helped to keep my distance. Being shy meant that I had a natural form of protection, but then I met people and made friends and in the end they understood that I was there to work and to do the best that I could.”

Still, she acquired a reputation for being difficult and for refusing to blindly bow to authority. Anthony Dowell, the Royal Ballet director who hired her, dubbed her Mademoiselle Non because of her propensity to reject his casting suggestions. She had a heated debate with MacMillan, a screaming match that was accidentally broadcast on the opera house’s PA system. “It’s important to stand up for the things you think are true and not take things for granted,” she now says. “Of course it was hard for me to stand up to Rudolf or Anthony because I respected them so much and I was very young, but I was so convinced I was right.”

In 2006 she parted company with the Royal Ballet, the company that had transformed her from a virtuoso technician into a fully mature dance artist. “Leaving the Royal Ballet was sad,” she says, “but then the situation there was sad. For all those years I was a big part of the company’s life but when Monica Mason became director I felt it was a case of mediocrity. Rudolf Nureyev brought life and energy, passion and a strong will to the Paris Opera: you knew with him that the chance was there if you showed passion and the will to work hard. But I was seeing the opposite happening at the Royal Ballet: Monica’s incapacity and lack of vision and lack of generosity.”

Losing Guillem was a black mark on Mason’s otherwise much-lauded decade at the helm, but I can just imagine the clash between Mason’s democratic instincts and Guillem’s more elitist approach. Whatever the disappointment of her departure, however, the French star left an indelible mark on the ballet world. Tall and willowy with ultra-long limbs, a bendy physicality, exaggerated flexibility and an almost superhuman classical technique, she set the bar extremely high for other dancers and changed audiences’ expectations. In Russia in particular they copied her look — from Uliana Lopatkina to Svetlana Zakharova — and elsewhere young dancers wanted to emulate the extremes of her presentation and physicality.

Yet, says Guillem, “I don’t think I changed the way people look at ballet. Lifting my leg very high, that was the easy part, and a lot of dancers were lifting their legs high before me. If that’s all I did for dance, my God. Long legs and extreme suppleness is not what changes dance. What matters is touching an audience, when you bring something close to truth on stage, something close to generosity to the characters you are playing. These women — Manon, Marguerite — they are so deep and so complex, musically, intellectually and emotionally, and all of that should always be there. My goal was always to give everything I had.”

Her transition to queen of contemporary dance was seamless and again self-orchestrated. She sought out the choreographers who would inspire and reshape her, most notably Maliphant (who created Broken Fall and Push for her) and Khan. “I saw something by Akram on TV and I liked his approach and recognised that roots are quite strong in his work. Russell, the same: I was attracted to the poetry and style in his work. These were the things I wanted to be part of.”

Unlike Darcey Bussell, her colleague at Covent Garden, Guillem has never been a household name in Britain and sometimes it seemed as if her celebrity happened despite herself. Notoriously camera shy (although she is married to a photographer), she didn’t engage in the media popularity contest, even if she did once pose in the nude for French Vogue. “I was never interested in chasing celebrity because I don’t care if people recognise me in the streets; I’m always surprised when someone does. I turned down a lot of things — magazines and television — because it was all about the work for me.” Did she have the career she wanted? “I’m not disappointed at all, just that it went so fast. I did most of what I wanted to do and had great encounters with people.”

Home is a house in the Swiss mountains where she lives with her husband, Gilles Tapie, and two beautiful white shepherd dogs whom she takes on marathon walks. She lives there, she says, because she likes to be close to nature. She follows a vegan diet because she believes that killing for food is morally reprehensible. “I loved Italian charcuterie. If someone couldn’t become a vegetarian it was me, but then I saw how animals are treated, how dairy animals are tortured, and I couldn’t condone the cruelty. Imagine if reincarnation existed: would you like to be reincarnated as a veal calf?

She has kept all her pointe shoes as mementoes of her quarter century at the top. “All the old ones, since 25 years. I have all of my used pointe shoes. I gave a few to special people but otherwise I kept them all. They are in my house, in baskets, boxes, in plastic bags. I noted on the back of each which performance they are from. But they are not in a good state; I’m sure the insects are eating them. So maybe I will burn them all on the day I retire.”



Template by まるぼろらいと

Copyright ©LONDON Love&Hate 愛と憎しみのロンドン All Rights Reserved.