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By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 25 JUNE 2008 -The informal chat with Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem in Lyons almost a year ago did not prepare me for the overwhelming beauty of Sacred Monsters, Khan's 2007 creation with the French ballerina.

It could be said, however, that with the combination of two of the world's greatest dancers, Guillem, the super-star of classical ballet and Khan of classic Kathak, such a result was inevitable. It was. The creation was a fascinating combination of classicism merging with contemporary, both styles blending perfectly with Khan's blazing solo, purely Kathak , this time not of his own creation, but choreographed by Gauri Sharma Tripathi. There was far more bravura and less theatre than I had imagined.

The British-born choreographer, who did not have the time to work on the entire piece, brought in not only Tripathi, but Lin Hwai Min, of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan to create a brilliant solo for Sylvie Guillem. Guillem sat at the front of the stage nonchalantly chatting to the audience while all the time performing quite amazing classical contortions, her arms and legs finding the most extraordinary positions of which she herself seemed supremely unaware!

Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan in Sacred Monsters
Photo: Tristram Kenton

Separately, they are superb performers, but brought together, they were astonishing. Completely at ease in the other's company, and full of charm, whether tender, teasing or squabbling, when they finally came together in Khan's unique pas de deux which was what the whole work had been leading up to, they were sublime. They were as one, Guillem's long sinewy body melding into and around the powerful sturdy frame of her partner. It was not only a beautiful visual experience, but an inspired combination of poetry, humour, philosophy, and truth.

The production, overseen by Farooq Chaudry, also owed much to the collaborators chosen and to Khan's musicians themselves. The set, two enormous white/grey curved walls (in Lyons, outdoors, the setting was in a cave), was by the Japanese designer, Shizuka Hariu. All the musicians were on stage and songs were a mixture of Indian and Western themes, with a surprising Corsican melody surfacing in their midst. An enthralling evening.

Patricia Boccadoro is dance editor at

Related Culturekiosque Dance Archives

An Interview with Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan

Dance Review: Akram Khan Company

Akram Khan: Beyond Kathak

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