Sylvie Guillem: “6,000 miles away”

April 5, 2012

Sylvie Guillem: “6,000 miles away”

Presented by The Joyce Theater Foundation

David H. Koch Theater

Lincoln Center, NYC

April 4–6, 2012

Performance reviewed, April 4

He gives her earthiness and she gives him lightness. The pairing between choreographer Mats Ek and superstar Sylvie Guillem in Bye, his solo for her, is made in heaven. While Guillem elsewhere is known for her polished technique and effortless extensions, here she is a forlorn and feisty waif. In a typical Ek phrase, she is refined one moment, galumphing the next. Twisting while hunched over or leaping with flaccid arms, she has the self-effacing humor of a Jules Feiffer dancer—the one who dances joyously to Spring only to collapse in a heap of self doubt.


Sylvie Guillem in Bye, by Mats Ek
Photo by Lesley Leslie-Spinks, Courtesy Guillem



The sly additional element in Bye is a sweet, spare film by Elias Benxon. It is projected onto a vertical screen the size of a door, upstage left. Guillem’s image appears terribly close and then recedes far into the distance. The film is timed precisely to complete her movements from behind the door. Sometimes the black-and-white images seem to answer her danced questions; at other times they echo her movements. Guillem is such a lovely creature that we were delighted to see two versions of her. What’s remarkable is that neither the choreography nor the film is overdone in any way. Together they create a pleasant, wistful quality while we bask (and a few black-and-white people join us in that basking on the screen) in the pleasure of her dancing.



Guillem in Bye. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Guillem.


William Forsythe contributed Rearray, an eerie duet he made for Guillem and La Scala star Massimo Murru. Her amplitude, the way her limbs stretch into space with no strain at all, is exquisite. Their intricate, sometimes gnarled partnering is studded with classical moments like a beautifully held écarté on relevé. David Morrow’s high-pitched, sometimes hardly-there sounds lend an otherworldly aura, and in the dimness the two figures could be on the dark side of the moon. The periodic blackouts act much like the stage curtain in Forsythe’s Artifact Suite—shutting the dancers down at random moments, sometimes in the middle of an action.


Guillem in Rearray by William Forsythe. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Guillem.


Presumably to give Guillem a break, a duet excerpt of Kylián’s 27’52” was performed by two former Nederlands Dans Theater dancers: Aurélie Cayla and Luca Timulak. This is more drastic, the partnering more intimate, clingy even. The taped score by Dirk Haubrich includes voices speaking in German, then in French. The duet has a harsh, almost paranoid quality, partly due to the sharp shadows (lighting by Kees Tjebbes). Toward the end they are chased by their own shadows. Finally Cayla and Timulak lift the floor covering and crawl underneath, ending on separate sides of the stage. (Let’s see, how many pieces have I seen recently where the dancers strip the floor covering.) I guess the intimacy was too much for them.

Although the Forsythe and Kylián had their own points of fascination, they didn’t produce the alchemical reaction that made Bye linger in the mind’s eye.