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.