Dance Theater


Sylvie Guillem, Robert Lepage, Russell Maliphant
Presented by Sadler’s Wells London in association with Ex Machina & Sylvie Guillem

German Premiere
Premiere 26 February 2009, Sadler’s Wells, London

Eonnagata. Russell Maliphant

© Érick Labbé

  • 1 h 30 min, without interval

Past Dates

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. Robert Lepage has been pushing the limits of theatre, mixing genres and venturing into little-known territory for over twenty years. Russell Maliphant is often described as the most important British choreographer of his generation. 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.

»Hardly anyone moves more fluently, delicately – you almost want to say ›singingly‹ than Guillem, the ballerina bursting with energy, and the muscular, wonderfully earthed Maliphant. Michael Hulls’ lighting has never made every set that has been made elsewhere look quite so irrelevant … Finally Alexander McQueen has made unexpectedly polite and reticent costumes which allude to historical references while taking an elegant and erotic contemporary form …«
Wiebke Hüster, Frankfurter Allgemeine


Conceived and performed by Sylvie Guillem, Robert Lepage, Russell Maliphant

Lighting design Michael Hulls
Costume design Alexander McQueen
Sound design Jean-Sébastien Côté

Co-produced by spielzeit’europa | Berliner Festspiele, Festival TransAmériques, Montréal and Les Nuits de Fourvière, Lyon
Supported by Rolex