Brevity is a virtue. Sylvie Guillem magnificently proved this to me today, underneath the starlight of Athens, on a warm June night. She proved me that just over an hour is enough for beauty to shine, for the timeline of an entire life to sparkle before fading gloriously in our memories. Sylvie is indeed a legend. She doesn’t simply perform but she narrates a story. A story that sounds differently to each others’ hearts. One could say she visualises the essence of life; motion. Beautifully stable at her motion, she loudly spoke today to the minds and souls of thousands of Athenians, sitting uncomfortably at the thousand-years-old narrow seats of Odeon of Herodes Atticus, witnessing a miracle; Sylvie’s shadow gracefully moving between the arched stories of the stone theatre facade.
Initially, just herself, as humble as the skeleton tree in the middle of the stage alluding, to my eyes, to the dusk of a flourishing, I wouldn’t simply say career, but voyage. A tree with no more leaves but its roots penetrating the soil, offering it the grandeur and pride it deserves. The skies of Athens made her the favour of covering her and her tree-reflection with wide, warm, dark blue. And as soon as she bowed, they burst out in an exhilarating rain. Sylvie brought the rain in Athens, in plain June. As Baudelaire wrote: “Il y a des pluies de printemps délicieuses, ou le ciel a l’air de pleurer de joie.” The skies cried from happiness seeing Sylvie dancing, the way tears filled my eyes when I stared at her and her vision somehow magically translated into a narrative that awakened a million sentiments within me.
Soon two male dancers appeared dancing without music. ‘And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music…’ Perfect synchronicity might give the momentary illusion that perfection is attainable. And that’s exactly why not a single movement was synchronised between the two dancers. They were complementary, but not identical. At times giving the impression they compete, while in fact they were forming an enchanting duo of uniqueness combined. Later, Sylvie sharing the stage with another female dancer, the Italian Emanuela Montanari couldn’t be but intriguing. They alluringly give the notion of flow, mirroring each other and later anti-diametrically filling the stage with their double presence. I still doubt whether that was a double presence though, or the reflection of one’s self, dragging, pushing, lifting or simply flowing side by side with our conscious self. At last, Sylvie, Beethoven and a digital screen that mingles with reality synthesise her ‘Bye’ scene. She emerges from a screen that makes everything look distant but omnipresent and enticing at the same time. She momentarily touches it but stays with us, she stays in reality with her bright yellow skirt. She removes her socks and her steps seem even louder to our ears, even more real. Shadows of people appear staring at her from the screen. I thought they were memories of all those who crossed her path in life and stared at her, from precious people to enchanted audiences. And then, she re-enters the screen and gets lost in this crowd. She fades as she enters the sphere of unreal, the sphere of memories were her existence will always be recorded and celebrated, this dimension where she will always be remembered. ‘Having limits to push is how you find out what you can do.’ Thank you for reminding us that limits are not binding, that they can be surpassed as we move, evolve and connect the dots between our previous, present and following steps in life.
PS (To my best friend from university, Dimitra): Yes, I guess you are right. When we will grow old, and we will retrospectively see our ‘life in progress’, we will be saying that when we were 22, we found 2 last tickets to watch Sylvie Guillem at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (!) in Athens, instead of Sadler’s Wells in London…