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Sylvie Guillem CBE (born 23 February 1965 in Paris, France[1]) is a French ballet dancer. She was the top-ranking female dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet from 1984 to 1989, before becoming a principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet in London. She is currently performing contemporary dance as an Associate Artist of London's Sadler's Wells Theatre. Her most notable performances have included those in Giselle and in Rudolf Nureyev's stagings of Swan Lake and Don Quixote.



As a child, Guillem trained in gymnastics under the instruction of her mother, a gymnastics teacher.[1] In 1977, at age 11, she began training at the Paris Opera Ballet School, and in 1981 joined the company, dancing in the corps de ballet.[1] In 1983 Guillem won the gold medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition, which later in the year earned her her first solo role, dancing the Queen of the Driads in Rudolf Nureyev's staging of Don Quixote.[1] In December 1984, after her performance in Nureyev's Swan Lake, Guillem became the Paris Opera Ballet's youngest ever etoile, the company's top-ranking female dancer.[1] In 1987 she performed the lead role in William Forsythe's contemporary ballet, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. In 1988 Guillem was given the title role in a production of Giselle staged by the Royal Ballet to celebrate Nureyev's 50th birthday. Her performance was a success, and in the following year she left Paris for London, to become a freelance performer and one of the Royal Ballet's principal guest artists.[1] Her desire to work independently from a company gained her the nickname Mademoiselle Non.[2]

In 1995 Guillem created the dance television program, Evidentia, which won several international awards. In 1998 she staged her own version of Giselle for the Finnish National Ballet, and in 2001 restaged the ballet for La Scala Ballet in Milan.[1] In 2001 she became the first winner of the Nijinsky Prize for the world's best ballerina, although in her acceptance speech she criticised the "supermarket culture" of such awards. In the same year, she controversially appeared nude and without make-up in a photo-shoot for French Vogue.[3] In 2003 she directed the central section of a Nureyev tribute program, but was criticised for having the dancers perform in front of a giant projected backdrop of Nureyev, which the audience found distracting.[4] By 2006 Guillem had moved from ballet to contemporary dance, working with performers such as Akram Khan as an Associate Artist of the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. As of 2006, Guillem was in a long-term relationship with photographer Gilles Tapie.[5]

Guillem has received numerous decorations during her career. She was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1994, an officier of the Ordre national du Mérite in 1999, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2003.[6]


Guillem's repertoire includes Giselle (Giselle), Swan Lake (Odette/Odile), Don Quixote (Kitri), In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Romeo and Juliet (Juliet), The Sleeping Beauty (Aurora), Boléro, Cinderella, Notre-Dame de Paris, Raymonda, La Bayadère (Nikiya and Gamzatti), Fall River Legend, Prince of the Pagodas (Princess Rose), Hermann Schmermann, Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien, 'Push' with Russel Maliphant, and Sacred Monsters (with Akram Khan).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Encyclopaedia Britannica Year in Review 2002. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2003. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0852299575.  
  2. ^ Brown, Ismene (2006-09-21). "Smoking!". The First Post.,arts,,3. Retrieved 2008-07-31.  
  3. ^ "Sylvie's wake-up call". The Telegraph. 2002-03-30. Retrieved 2008-07-31.  
  4. ^ "Royal Ballet Guest Principals". Retrieved 2008-07-31.  
  5. ^ Mackrell, Judith (2006-09-14). "Fear is the drug". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-31.  
  6. ^ "Sylvie Guillem Biography". Official website of Sylvie Guillem. Retrieved 2008-07-31.  

"On Her toes" - interview with Sylvie Guillem, published 12/11/09 in Ha'aretz -

External links



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