It is clear that Sylvie Guillem has not focused all her talent on the art of performing series of arabesques and grands jetés, even if the incredible curve of her foot regularly and mischievously appears on the screen. In this film, each artist proposes to clarify the paradox of dance films: “For the screen”, explains Mats Ek, “the aim is to produce an image that is an extension of movement, while on stage we work on the movement itself”. After Mouvement, an assembly of moments of dance and varying images – extract from a Buster Keaton film, slow motion animal races, Greek statue curvature, etc. -, Sylvie Guillem delivers the key to Evidentia : “We have always wanted to film dance, but here it’s just the contrary: we leave the film to dance”.
Mats Ek began his career by studying theatre, whilst taking part in Donya Feuer's (an American who practiced the Martha Graham technique and who was based in Stockholm) dance classes at the same time. He joined the Dusseldorf Ballet for a season (1974-75), then integrated the Cullberg Ballet, directed by his mother Birgit Cullberg, the following year. In 1980, Mats Ek became co-artistic director for the company, along with Birgit Cullberg, and in 1985, when she took her retirement, he became the sole director.
His audacious and mordant revisions of “La Maison de Bernarda” (The House of Bernarda) (1978), “Giselle” (1982), “Le sacre du printemps” (The Rite of Spring) (1984), “Le lac des cygnes” (Swan Lake) (1987), “Carmen” (1992) and “La belle au bois dormant” (Sleeping Beauty) (1996) confirmed his talent to dig deep into appearances to bring out the tormented psychology of the characters and to defy ballet conventions. His surrealist fables such as “Vieux Enfants” (1989) and “Etres Lumineux” (1991) transpose, through the bizarre, the complex relationships that can be developed between people.
Since leaving his position as director of the Cullberg Ballet (1993) and becoming a freelancer, Mats Ek has strived to denounce the ills of society through the difficulties encountered by couples and through the small everyday dramas of life. “A Sort of...” (1997) for the Nederlands Dans Theater, “Appartement” for the Opéra de Paris, “Fluke” (2002) for the repertoire of the Ballet de l'Opéra de Lyon, “Aluminium” for the Compañia Nacional de Danza / Nacho Duato (2005), “Place” for Ana Laguna and Mikhail Baryshnikov (2007), “Radis noir” (2008) for the Ballet of the Royal Opera of Sweden. More than ever, Mats Ek strived to “dance for a reason… I want to reflect the image of reality”.
He also made his comeback in the theatre where he produced “Dans Med Nätsan” / “Danse avec ton prochain” (Dance with your neighbour) (1995), “Johanna sur Jeanne d'Arc” (1998) and directed works by Molière, Racine, Shakespeare, Strindberg, and the Gluck opera “Orphée et Eurydice” (Orpheus and Eurydice).
In twenty years, he has imposed his poignant vision of human behaviour, in a personal style that exacerbates the movement and fills the body with the distresses of the soul. In his psychoanalytical reinterpretations of the “classics”, just like in his sharp observation of the frustrations of individuals, he dares to display the essential.
Source : Opéra de Lyon (Josseline le Bourhis)
Her debut at the Opera
In 1976, whilst participating in a training course at the Opéra de Paris, she was spotted by the Director, Claude Bessy, who invited her to join the Opera Ballet School. At the age of sixteen, she joined the corps de ballet where she was first promoted Coryphée in 1982, then Sujet (Soloist) in 1983.
That same year, she won the gold medal in the Varna International Ballet Competition, in Bulgaria.
1984 was to be the year that Sylvie Guillem would receive great recognition. First of all, she was promoted to Principal Dancer on 24 December, but only kept her title for five days because at the end of her performance in Le Lac des cygnes (Swan Lake) on 29 December, she was named Étoile by Rudolf Nureyev, the then Ballet Director of the Opera.
She went on to dance in a myriad of ballets, including Don Quichotte (Don Quixote) and Roméo et Juliette (Romeo and Juliette) and regularly toured Europe, the United States and Japan.
In 1989, she left the Opéra de Paris for the London Royal Ballet, where she was given the title of “Principal Guest Artist”. Whilst there, she gained a reputation as a capricious young lady, which would earn her the nickname of “Mademoiselle Non”. In London, she danced for William Forsythe in Somewhat Elevated, which brought a whole new direction to her career and led her to modern and contemporary dance.
Although she was mainly based in London, Sylvie Guillem also worked for other ballets in Europe (the Berlin Opera, la Scala in Milan, etc.) as well as throughout the world (Tokyo ballet, American Ballet Theater, etc.), where she collaborated with Maurice Béjart (Le Sacre du printemps - The Rite of Spring) and Russel Mallifant (Broken Fall).
In 1998, she returned to the Opéra de Paris as Guest Artist and danced the main roles in several ballets, such as Le Lac des cygnes (Swan Lake) and Giselle.
A myriad of awards
In addition to being promoted to Étoile at a very young age, Sylvie Guillem’s career has been marked by a myriad of awards from the profession and decorations from various State representatives.
From the very beginning of her career she was honoured for her work with the Prix du Cercle Carpeaux as best young dancer (1984) and the Andersen Prize as Best Dancer (1988), as well as several other major dance awards; the most recent dates from 2003. In France, she received the Legion of Honour, amongst others.
Artistic direction / Conception : Sylvie Guillem, Mats Ek, William Forsythe
Production / Coproduction of the video work : Gunilla Wallin, Mats Ek, Thomas Lovell Balogh, Adam Roberts, Ha Van (camera). Production France2, RD Studio productions, SVT1, BBC. Participation CNC, ministère de la Culture (DMD).