French international ballet star Sylvie Guillem to retire

Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris, where Sylvie Guillem began
Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris, where Sylvie Guillem began Flickr

French ballerina Sylvie Guillem, one of the greatest dancers of her generation, has announced that she is to retire at the end of 2015.


"I have loved every moment of the last 39 years and today I am still loving it in the same way," the 49 year-old Guillem said in a statement issued on Thursday.

"So why stop?” she continued, and then answered her own question “very simply because I want to end while I'm still happy doing what I do with pride and passion.”

Famed for her long legs, red hair, bold attitude and extreme flexibility, Guillem will present her last dance programme in Modena in March, with performances at London's Sadler's Wells theatre in May and an international tour ending in Tokyo in December.

Guillem was catapulted to international stardom three decades ago following a December 1984 performance of Swan Lake with the Paris Opera Ballet.

After her debut as Odette/Odile, the then director Nureyev swept on stage to announce her promotion to danseuse étoile (star dancer), the youngest in the company's glittering history.

"When she was dancing with him it was (like) one person. Rudolf was very impressed by that," dancer and choreographer Pierre Lacotte said of her collaboration with Nureyev recently.

The relationship, however, was not always easy. Guillem has said that Nureyev was "very shy" and "difficult" resulting in "explosive" exchanges when the two did not agree.

Originally trained as a gymnast, Guillem proved to be a technical virtuoso with huge artistic sensitivity.

In 1989, she left Paris for London where she became the Royal Ballet's principal guest artist and undertook other projets as a freelancer.

In more recent years she branched out into experimental dance.

Her last dance programme will be entitled "Life in Progress" and includes two new works, one a solo performance choreographed by Akram Khan and another performed with Italian dancer Emanuela Montanari and choreographed by Russell Maliphant.

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