You could tell the performance we were about to watch by the crowd at the Esplanade Theatre, Singapore. Gaggles of petits cygnes, hair in neat buns, flitted about in translucent dance tights under their street covering. Dark-haired women, asymmetrically-bobbed, glided straight-backed, in their fitted little black dresses and proper strings of pearls, waving (some slightly bingo-winged) at old friends. “The whole community is here,” observed one such elegant creature to her approving neighbour, as they nodded to someone on the far side.
And it seems that Sylvie Guillem (facebook) meant for Life In Progress to be less of a swan song before the funeral, than a farewell party for friends and admirers. The programme was not a retrospective, not a greatest hits, but a further exploration (and one fitting reprisal) with her collaborators and choreographers, Russell Maliphant, William Forsythe, Akram Khan, Mats Ek.
How I would have liked to see something old like Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated with Laurent Hilaire (another Rudolf Nureyev’s, well, chou chou) – but even he hung up his shoes almost a decade ago and has since left Paris Opera Ballet. They were lithe packages of physical strength that enabled the execution of accurate movements with beguiling delicacy, and, as no one else I’ve seen in this generation, danced with their whole bodies (including the face).
Thanks to a heavily discounted ticket (originally an out-of-budget S$124 (£62), part of da:ns festival 2015), I managed to watch Guillem from the 8th row – not quite as good as the first row balcony (lots of neck craning going on), but better than the gods.
Various reviews have termed the programme a “mixed bag”, but I confess to enjoying it all, from the evolution around the tree (of life?) of Khan’s technê, to the tension of not-touching of Forsythe’s DUO2015 (sans Guillem), to the contrast between excellent technical dancer and just-that-little-much-more-out-of-this-world graceful and fluid and poetic Guillem in Maliphant’s Here and After, to the poignancy of Ek’s Bye.