6000 miles away – Sylvie Guillem: Sadler’s Wells, London, 6 July 2011

Sylvie through the looking glass

Alas poor Will. Sylvie talks to the hand in Mats Ek's 'Bye'

One of the most exciting developments in dance over the past few years has been the increasingly inventive use of film projections. And so it was with the world premiere of Mats Ek’s Bye created especially for Sylvie Guillem’s new show 6000 miles away at Sadler’s Wells.

Elias Benxon’s monochromatic imagery populated the door-sized screen, acting as a window on an unwelcome nether world of the mundane while Guillem, dressed like a downtrodden sitcom housewife in natty green cardigan and mustard skirt, danced a precarious line somewhere between jubilation and fury. Ek neatly solved the audience dilemma of what to watch – real-life dancer or digitally reproduced imitation on the screen – by merging the two; when Guillem poked her leg behind the screen, the identical filmed version appeared on the front. Not only did this look great but demonstrated Guillem’s incredible timing and precision. The little dog was cute too.

The other world premiere in this triple bill was disappointing. William Forsythe’s Rearray was a whirlwind of arms and classical extensions that even Guillem and Paris étoile Nicolas Le Riche’s flawless techniques couldn’t save. David Morrow’s piercing plink-plonk music didn’t help but Forsythe and Rachel Shipp’s flashbulb lighting designs were interesting; sharp stabs of darkness cannily portrayed the displacement of movement with each dancer resuming from unexpected corners of the stage when the lights flicked back on.

Sandwiched between the two new works was Jiří Kylian’s 2002 piece 27’52” which featured an electrifying performance from ex-NDT dancer Aurélie Cayla. Jolting movements coupled with expressions of nervous confusion brought a difficult role to life. She was supported ably, if a little flatly, by Kenta Kojiri but whipping her bright red top off mid-routine didn’t really add much – if anything it took the focus away from her lithe frame and the piece lost much of its impetus.

Like any journey of 6000 miles it was never going to be a smooth ride but this show demonstrates that Sylvie Guillem, even as she approaches her fiftieth year, is still an astonishingly flexible dancer. During Bye she nonchalantly flung her leg up over her head while walking across the stage – the lady can still kick it.

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