Edinburgh International Festival dance review: Sylvie Guillem – Life in Progress, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter.
Rarely has the Festival Theatre seen a moment as poignant as this. Standing at the edge of the stage, absorbing the tidal wave of admiration rushing towards her, Sylvie Guillem looks visibly moved. She’s not the only one. The audience knows it has just watched one of the greatest dancers of all time and, chances are, none of us will ever see her perform again.
At the age of 50, Sylvie Guillem is saying goodbye to the stage. On the evidence of Life in Progress, she is still at the top of her game – athletic, endlessly flexible, an exquisite storyteller – but that’s precisely why she’s going now.
What comes next will include her passion for the environment – something Akram Khan tapped into when choreographing Technê. Guillem starts the piece crawling like an insect, and ends stroking the branches of a beautiful, but bare, wire tree. In between, she imbues Khan’s trademark quick-fire Kathak/contemporary blend with strength and grace.
Those without a programme may have puzzled over Guillem’s absence in William Forsythe’s Duo 2015 – a male duet danced by Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts – but this sharply executed exercise in intricate patterns was respite for her, a treat for us.
The relationship between choreographer Russell Maliphant and lighting designer Michael Hulls has produced countless gifts, and Here & After is no exception. Lit as if under water, Guillem and dance partner Emanuela Montanari move as one bronze-tinged body. Starting with an intimate bond, the two drift steadily apart, yet always connected, each move as fluid as the one before.
It’s unlikely that any dance piece will ever find itself in a more apposite position than Mats Ek’s Bye, which closed the night – and Guillem’s dance career. Clever, captivating, touching, technically precise and wonderfully engaging. Just like her.
Edinburgh Festival Theatre / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 10 August 2015
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