Ballet Stars

#TBT: Sylvie Guillem and Massimo Murru in “Petite Mort” (2005)

Sylvie Guillem and Massimo Murru in "Petite Mort," via YouTube.

From the outside, classical ballet can seem restrictive with its decorum, elaborate costumes and, or course, uncomfortable pointe shoes. Yet as ballet dancers we know that our technique actually allows our bodies to move with incredible freedom. That physical freedom is never more apparent than in watching dancers like Sylvie Guillem and Massimo Murru, both of whom danced with historic ballet companies, take on contemporary masterpieces like Jiří Kylián's Petite Mort. Stripped down to the barest costumes, their musculature and sheer physicality are unencumbered and demand awe.


Guillem, a former étoile with the Paris Opera Ballet and then an international guest artist, could certainly not be contained to classical repertoire. Alongside Marru, a former La Scala Ballet étoile, her legs bend, swivel, expand and fly. Guillem and Marru's intelligent bodies slip from angular shapes into flowing classical lines. Their movement relies on tension, supporting each others' weight in unexpected shapes. In one moment at 3:30, as Murru clasps Guillem's hand between her legs, she flicks her feet off the floor and suddenly levitates in grand plié. Continuously weaving into each others' negative space, they wrap their legs, arms and bodies around each other, dancing as a single organism. The audience was obviously moved—the applause goes on for two minutes! Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

The Conversation
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