Photo: Bill Cooper
The piece we had admittedly all been waiting for, Guillem’s solo Bye, arrived at last. Choreographed by Mats Ek and set to Beethoven’s last piano sonata, the piece was a delight to watch.
Mats Ek is not only a choreographer, but has also staged productions of various plays in his native Sweden. A former stage director and ballet dancer, he has become a guest choreographer for many of the leading companies in the world. His style is known for conveying the feelings and emotions behind a storyline rather than just the narrative itself.
This style is beautifully apparent in Bye. The choreography bounced from flowing arms and legs to clunky child-like movements, channeling joy mixed with discovery. Guillem’s exuberance and energy filled the stage as she leapt and bounded about, belying her 48 years. This looked like a woman rediscovering freedom, breaking free from the confines of her daily life and revisiting that childlike joy of dancing just for the sheer pleasure of it.
As first the cardigan and then the shoes and socks were removed, I sensed the carefree abandonment of youth, like when you strip off your socks and skip across the slippery stones to paddle in the icy cold river, knowing you’re late for dinner and will surely get a telling off, but just wanting to feel the water run between your toes.
The staging of the piece included a screen the size of a doorway, on which we were first met with Guillem’s eye looking around at us all before the face pulled back. The projected video footage showed Guillem trying to figure her way out to us, a human leg unfolding from around the side as the film Guillem stuck a leg out beyond the parameters of the screen. This use of film in harmony with the physical, tangible dancer delighted the audience.
The ending of the solo saw Guillem put back on the cardigan, socks and shoes and return to the world of the screen, where a curious crowd had by now gathered to watch her dancing antics. As she returned from whence she came, the people seemed accepting and the crowd dispersed as they presumably went back to their daily business. It conjured in my mind images of village life, where everyone knows your business and leaping through the fields would most definitely draw a crowd. Once returned to the flock and what is considered as ‘normal’ behaviour, the interest wanes and you return to routine… until the next time you venture out without your shoes and socks on!
It’s been a few weeks since my very first post, and the whole point of a blog is that it needs updating regularly, so I hope to make my posts a bit more frequent in the future, starting now! What better than to tell you a bit about what’s been keeping me busy the last few weeks… I am currently preparing for a music video shoot in which I will be making use of my ballet training and doing a bit of dancing. When I first discussed the shoot with the director I had a minor moment of panic, mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t been to a ballet class in about five years, so the first thing I had to do was get back to class. I found an adult ballet class at the school where I used to train several years ago and have now had two lessons. From the very first demi-plié to the reverance at the end, I loved every minute of it, even when I nearly face-planted the floor during a rather unsteady pirouette. It was like welcoming back an old friend.
I started ballet at the age of four. My mum took me to see Swan Lake and for those two or three hours I was entranced, mesmerised, completely under its spell. I wanted to do it, had to do it. For many years it was all I wanted to do, and I dreamed of one day being a professional ballerina, but after too many breaks in my training and lacking the funds to go to ballet school, it wasn’t to be. A few years ago I stopped going to class, but your body never forgets. After years of developing your turnout, your hips find that position natural, so standing there at the barre in fifth position, it felt like everything was where it was supposed to be. I had come home. Admittedly there’s been a considerable loss in strength and technique, and doing a ronds de jambe with my hips moving all over the place was rather disconcerting, but I’m determined to get it back, and I know that after a few weeks of working hard in class it will start to come.
I’m rediscovering muscles that have been laying dormant for far too long, but thankfully my pilates training has kept some of my strength up. It’s going to be a challenge to pull off a decent pirouette during the shoot but I know that if it’s needed for the video, I will do it. This may not be Natalie Portman preparing for Black Swan, but it is still hard work, and makes me even more in awe of what she went through for that role. I hope that I one day get the chance to tackle such meaty roles, but for the moment I’m taking every opportunity I can and enjoying the experiences along the way, and this music video is a perfect example – in preparing for a role, I have rekindled an old flame, and rediscovered the joy of dance.