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Sylvie Guillem - Life in Progress (Festival Theatre, Edinburgh)

The French dancer takes her farewell tour to the EIF

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Sylvie Guillem in Life in Progress
© Bill Cooper

Pure dance often strikes me as embryonic, a coming alive, a birthing process, limbs and bodies awakening to their potential then subsiding in peace and calm, or exploding in joyous confusion.

Turning 50, the great French dancer Sylvie Guillem has passed through the Edinburgh International Festival on her farewell tour and, quite honestly, the occasion seems more like hello than goodbye.

Her programme of modern dance includes two tailor-made world premieres, by Akram Khan and Russell Maliphant, a piece she made at Sadler's Wells with Mats Ek four years ago, and a stunning male duet choreographed by William Forsythe in 1996.

Not a tutu in sight. In Khan's Technê, with a part-played-live serpentine score by Alies Sluiter, she dances deliriously, then devotedly, around a glistening silver tree structure.

The lines she cuts, the extensions, the perfectly executed classical gestures - the grace and physicality of her movement are unimpaired by the years; she may not feel it, but she looks absolutely in her prime.

The ballet boys in Forsythe's Duo2015 (music by Thom Willems) are Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts, carving a butch asexual duet that is nonetheless sexy, a feat (with feet) exactly echoed in Maliphant's Here & After (music by Andy Cowton) when Guillem is partnered by Emanuela Montanari.

Finally, this most undiva-like of great primas lets rip like a dervish in Ek's Bye, her signal adieu, to a recording of Beethoven's piano sonata in C minor, op 111, a piece that contains everything we shall remember of Guillem: grace, muscularity, poignancy, emotional penetration and skill beyond imagining.

Sylvie Guillem - Life in Progress runs at the Festival Theatre until 10 August.

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