Sylvie Guillem, Eonnagata
Sylvie Guillem – Eonnagata
a strange and unique crossing-over from dream to afterlife – and back again
Career diplomat, part-time soldier and amateur spy, Charles de Beaumont, Chevalier d’Éon, was familiar with both honour and defeat, with glory as well as exile. Beyond the romance of his life, what stands out is his extraordinary audacity. Éon was probably the first spy to use cross-dressing in the pursuit of his duties. This earned him a variety of enemies, including Louis XVI, who forced him to wear a dress all the time. Eventually people no longer knew whether he was a man or a woman.
The creators of Eonnagata asked the question differently. What if Charles de Beaumont was both man and woman? Midway between theatre and dance, Eonnagata pits the fan against the sword, the courtesan against the swordsman. But it also explores the embodying of one sex by the other in what is more an investigation of gender than of sexuality. The work draws on Onnagata, a Kabuki theatre technique that enables actors to represent women in a highly stylized fashion, shedding new light on the Chevalier d’Éon and revealing that his enigma is perhaps the mystery of human identity itself.
The nonconformism of Charles de Beaumont quickly struck a chord with the creators of Eonnagata. Sylvie Guillem is a celebrated rebel of classical ballet who converted to contemporary dance. In the last few years she has dazzled audiences in London, Tokyo, Sydney and Paris with her grace, energy, precision and humour in shows such as Push and Sacred Monsters. Robert Lepage has been pushing the limits of theatre, mixing genres and venturing into little-known territory for over twenty years, and has attracted a large, diverse and enthusiastic following. Russell Maliphant is often described as the most important British choreographer of his generation. He blends martial arts, classical dance and the most recent lighting technologies into works that breathe fluidity and power.
With the support of lighting designer Michael Hulls, costume designer Alexander McQueen and sound designer Jean-Sébastien Côté, Guillem, Lepage and Maliphant have created a strange and unique crossing-over from dream to afterlife – and back again.
Witness the work in progress by viewing the video clips which are made up of images of the filming of the documentary featuring Sylvie Guillem, directed by Françoise Ha Van and produced by À Droite de la Lune.
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