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Sylvie Guillem: On the Edge

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There have been at least two DVDs about Sylvie Guillem released in England, yet not here, as far as I know. Odd, for such a big star and such an influential dancer.

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For whatever reason this DVD became available in Canada before the U.S., so I've had a quick look over it.

Unfortunately, there isn't a decent representation of any part of "Swan Lake." The sequence, which is shot in black-and-white, begins with a rehearsal of the adagio with Nicolas Le Riche, and then moves on to a performance in Japan, much of the time allotted spent backstage. You do see the corps of swans going through their paces at the end of the second act, but no sooner does Guillem make her entrance than entirely different music is superimposed over the image, and what follows is a collage of second-act moments set to vaguely circus-y music. It's a weird bit of obstructionist filmmaking.

There is also an excerpt from Bejart's "Bolero," which isn't shot in a particularly clear way. The two sequences, the booklet explains, are included because these are the only two ballets Guillem continues to dance.

Guillem the ballerina is pretty much restricted to a bonus feature, about 30 minutes long, which consists primarily of rehearsal footage, some of it very grainy, shot mainly during her guest appearances at the Paris Opera between 1991 and 2000. It includes her rehearsing a solo from Nureyev's "Romeo and Juliet"; the bedroom pas de deux and final scene from "Manon" with Laurent Hilaire; the adagio from "Don Quixote" with Nicolas Le Riche, plus Dulcinea's solo, from the hops on pointe onward, and Kitri's castanet solo; part of the pas de deux from "In the middle, somewhat elevated" with Laurent Hilaire; the third-act adagio from "Sleeping Beauty" with Nicolas Le Riche and Laurent Hilaire; and a pas de deux from "Herman Schmerman" with Marc Spradling. It has a very YouTube feel about it, and it's telling that Deutsche Grammophon should have to resort to this kind of footage in the absence of a properly filmed "Romeo and Juliet," "Manon," "Don Quixote" or "Sleeping Beauty."

Guillem has left a peculiar filmed legacy for future generations.

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