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Sylvie Guillem - 6000 Miles Away @ Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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Former star ballerina with the Paris Opera and guest at the Royal Ballet Sylvie Guillem has successfully made the transition from classical to contemporary dance. And this triple bill at Birmingham Hippodrome's Theatre shows how much versatility she has as a dancer.

It is hard to believe that Guillem is just a year away from 50 as she covers the floor with such energy, balances with such precision and moves with such strength.

Produced by Guillem and Sadler's Wells, the performance, 6000 Miles Away, features pieces by three very different choreographers – Mats Ek, William Forsythe and Jiri Kylian.

Sylvie Guillem, IDFB, dance, ballet, Birmingham, Hippodrome Theatre
Sylvie Guillem in Bye


Guillem does not dance in the first offering – 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 the other and switching places so seamlessly that at times it is difficult to see which arm or leg belongs to who.

Then it is time for Guillem to take to the stage in Forsythe's Rearray. Here, together with Massimo Murru, the two dancers work 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.

The score, created by David Morrow, and strong lighting by Kees Tjebbes serve to highlight the angularity of movement. There is a jarring sense to this piece while the movement itself showcases Guillem's incredible control, fluidity and flexibility. A child gymnast before she took up dance, Guillem has an acrobatic element to her dancing.

The final piece, Bye, created by Ek creates an interplay between film and dance. It begins with a piece of film of Guillem. First focussing on her eye, then her face, she then steps away from the camera until we see her full body.

Only then, when she is totally recognisable, does she begin to move. Her hands reach up and over the top of the entranceway and suddenly film and real life merge. Stepping out from behind the screen which is also a gateway she moves away from security.

There is a real childlike quality to this piece as Guillem has an air of vulnerability, emphasised when she removes her shoes and balances on bare feet on the stage.

Set to Beethoven's last 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.

6000 Miles Away was named by Guillem in tribute to the people of Japan as she was working with Forsythe when the tsunami struck in 2011.

In Birmingham it forms part of the International Dance Festival which sees performances from dancers and choreographers from across the globe being performed at venues and in the open air across the city. For more on the festival see the website.
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Why? Sylvie Guillem's mastery of balance, strength and flexibility
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre
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