“It was with a totally uncontrolled skid that I ‘performed’ my first bow 39 years ago… At Paris Opera Ballet School, all students (nicknamed ‘little rats’) were made to bow to all professional dancers and teachers as a mark of respect.
The dancers always seemed so solemn and aloof and whenever we were in a hurry, they always seemed to appear out of nowhere, causing us to come to a skidding halt to take our bows. The very old floor, waxed and made slippery by skids from previous generations, made this task relatively dangerous.
At full speed, we tried to hold, for at least half a second, the ‘bow’: a genuflexion with arms stretched downwards in V shape, palms down, back foot pointed behind the supporting leg. And this done, off we went, ‘trotting’ to the next class. These wobbling marks of respect were far from gracious, but for us it was a ‘Mission accomplished’!
After 39 years of practice, I have decided to take my final bow. Next year, 2015, will be my last world tour as a dancer, with a brand new production to say goodbye with gratitude and a great deal of emotion. I will present new works by Akram Khan and Russell Maliphant, and existing pieces by Mats Ek and William Forsythe.
I have loved every moment of the last 39 years, and today, I am still loving it in the same way. So why stop? Very simply, because I want to end while I am still happy doing what I do with pride and passion.
Also… I have a friend, a sleeper agent, to whom I gave a ‘licence to kill’ in case I tried to continue longer than I should! And frankly, I’d like to spare him this task.
I started by skidding to a halt, I have been on an exhilarating journey, and now I’m about to change direction. This is a Life in Progress. My Life.”
Sylvie Guillem announcing her retirement in 2015