Per the accompanying program note by Dramaturge Guy Cools, ‘Sacred Monsters. Monsters Sacres. The term was used for the first time in France in the 19th century as a nickname for the big stars of the theatre, such as Sarah Bernhardt. It marks the birth of contemporary stardom in which the icons of the arts and sports world are given divine status by their audience and the media…
But there is also a flip side to stardom. Having to live up to the expectations of your audience to be perfect, positive, good (at),… There is no more room for failure, imperfection, to express one’s real feelihngs and emotions. The divine status becomes inhuman, monstrous.’
The intense onstage collaboration between Choreographers, Dancers, Singers and Musicans becomes apparent form the initial moments. Differences in form are exhibited, namely in Akram Khan’s Kathak solo, an Indian classical dance form; which if compared with Classical Ballet, it would appear that the hands dance and almost lead the complex rhythms of the feet. The performance intersects with Khan’s spoken words about the early desire and struggles to represent Krishna. Later referenced in a duet when Sylvie Guillem has locked her legs around Khan’s waist and the rebellious questioners’ arms, and dark blue shadows, almost replicated the Indian god.
Guillem’s status as the super-ballerina of this era would seen unchallengeable. In an interview ‘Fear is the drug’ with Judith Mackrell, Guillem states, “When I am just dancing there is always something round me, a character, a role, that protects me. Here (Sacred Monsters) it feels much more myself.” Through the performance, the supple Guillem twists herself into a comical knot, like Khan she exposes fears, puts herself back together and re-emerges anew.
The impressive movements were interspersed with their desire to question classical inheritance, to push and challenge the conceptual boundaries of their dance forms. Questions were verbalised. What is right; what is the right movement; is this the right position or is this wrong? The processes (and exhaustion) are also literally performed when rather than exiting offstage, they sip water and towel down admist the minimal set, a torn white glacier. In its entirety, the work unpacks its self as it is performed.