By Abigail Cross, FCLC ’19
On Saturday, November 14th, I witnessed French ballet legend Sylvie Guillem’s final performance in the United States. The three evening engagement, from November 12th through the 14th at New York City Center, was part of Guillem’s world retirement tour, entitled “Life in Progress.” The program consisted of works by Akram Khan, William Forsythe, Russell Maliphant, and Mats Ek, contemporary choreographers with whom Guillem has worked with throughout her career.
For years I have regarded Sylvie Guillem’s incredible physical facility with a combination of admiration and envy, as has the rest of the dance world. This night was no different; Guillem’s physicality was front and center. Even at the age of 50, the arch of her feet, the hyperextension of her knees, and the mobility of her hips are unparalleled. During “Bye,” the final piece of the program, a near collision between Guillem’s leg and her nose elicited a quiet, involuntary gasp from the audience. One would imagine that we had grown accustomed to her superhuman abilities by that point. However, Guillem, along with choreographer Mats Ek, still managed to surprise us. The primary source of this surprise was in the unaffected, yet staccato, nature of this particular gasp-evoking battement. With neither warning nor reaction from her serene torso, Guillem’s leg accelerated to from floor to nose, and back again. While the movement was relatively simple, the juxtaposition of rapid motion and stillness made it indelible. Continue reading A Ballerina’s Last Steps