Sylvie Hangs Up Her Toe Shoes

After a career that defied convention, the French ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem went with the traditional for her final act, bowing out with a performance of Boléro in the Japanese city of Yokohama. A capacity audience of 2,400 burst into 15 minutes of rapturous applause as she left the stage, which was covered with bouquets of flowers. uillem first announced her plan to retire in 2014, three decades after she was made the youngest ever étoile – or top-ranking dancer – at the Paris Opera ballet as a 19-year-old. The young gymnast turned dancer was famously nurtured by Rudolf Nureyev but went on to forge her own remarkable career in classical ballet and, latterly, contemporary dance. She joined the Royal Ballet as principal guest artist in 1989 after dancing opposite Nureyev in his 50th birthday performance of Giselle. In London she earned the nickname “Mademoiselle Non” due to the number of roles she turned down, but wherever she travelled in the world, Guillem’s performances were a sellout.

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