Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem

by eskokilpi

Paul Cézanne once wrote that beauty in art is not created by the objects that are represented but by the relationships of line and colour. Relationships create tensions: tensions between line and colour, artistic perfection and “émerveillement”, meaning being enchanted like only a child can. Rigidity and fluidity. Shiva and Krishna. Kathak dance and classical ballet, and especially Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem. To me, Akram Khan is the most gifted choreographer and dancer of his generation. Sylvie Guillem is perhaps the world’s most celebrated ballerina today.

An evening at the Finnish National Opera provided all this. “Sacred Monsters” was the meeting of two superstars (sacred monsters) and two dance forms, two different vocabularies. It was interesting to compare the speech vocabulary with the dance vocabulary: Khan a bit flippantly worrying about losing his hair, Guillem casually reflecting on learning Italian from children’s cartoons. And then the superb dance vocabulary of Khan’s fluid Kathak beat, combined with Guillem’s beauty and balance. Wonderful moments that perhaps only these two dancers can achieve: Guillem with her feet locked behind Khan’s back, leaning back, with both their arms in a flowing wave. A remarkable combination of strength and poetry.

Akram Khan, speaking about this project, said: “I have spent my life studying and performing Kathak (the ancient North Indian dance tradition). It is the source of my creative process. Working with Sylvie Guillem is an exciting new challenge, giving me the opportunity to explore another classical dance language with one of its greatest practitioners, and as a result, creating a situation that will unearth the things that are most often lost between the old and modern world.” When Khan and Guillem danced side by side, it was interesting to note that I was often drawn to Khan’s dance rather than to Guillem’s, despite her beauty and grace. Is it a reminder that elsewhere too, there is inspiration, energy and richness in the things we forget – the sources of our creative process?