(Sylvie Guillem Series) PART 1. Transcendence

This series is not meant to be a complete retrospective of Sylvie Guillem’s biographical history. Nor is it meant to focus on her retirement entirely because I’ve come to believe that she will dance again, and she will remain an important and active figure in the dance world.


Guillem_Page-124The Prix de Lausanne 2015 ended recently causing me to return to my long waited Guillem series. In 1983, Guillem won gold at the IBC, one of the oldest ballet competitions. When Guillem started gaining speed as a young étolie at the Paris Opera Ballet, she was also facing a new world of dance that conflicted with classical POB. Contemporary ballet as we know it today exploded around the time Guillem was pushing her physical boundaries and personal desires as a dancer. That’s not to say that she ignited this change, but she was certainly an ambitious figure that fuelled the flames in the ballet world.

This is Sylvie Guillem, transcending. 

It was with Forsythe and POB that Guillem could flex and transcend, marking her as one of the most influential female dancers of the twentieth century into the beginning of the twenty-first century. What strikes me the most is that it wasn’t one choreographer/teacher or one school/academy that helped me; it was both. And I think this dance unity in order for the dancer and the dance form to evolve ebbs in and out of dance through out time. Where are we right now: one or the other or both? I believe that in America we have the sour and sweet; choreographer/teachers are the rage one year until the next when we worship the school/academy, and we still don’t have a moderation in classical ballet.


Going back to Forsythe for a bit, his joining with University of Southern California’s [USC] Glorya Kaufman School of Dance in 2015 gives me chills; it is such a supreme event, a joining of choreographer/teacher to school/academy in order to form dancer/students and elevate dance! We saw this when he choreographed works with a young Guillem and a more seasoned Guillem later. They created a tension in the dance world, POB specifically, that shook the classicalist traditions and produced apples of contemporary delights. I expect nothing less than this with the Forsythe-USC partnership to come!


With Guillem, conflicts of personal and professional interest could be seen before her departure from POB. Without contemporary dance as an outlet and motivation for her personal life, she would have grown disillusioned with her profession at POB as classical ballerina. But thankfully, the timing and the personalities were starting to mingle in the same dance arena during the 1980s and 1990s. Her recent collaborations with choreographer and dancer Akram Khan are the product of personal and professional freedom that she achieved for herself away from POB or RB. And this is also a testament to how important it is to keep the choreographer/teacher and the school/academy unity.

Sylvie Guillem transcended from this,

To this,

And this,

For more:






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