Remembering the Joy of Artistry in the News of Death

Sarah Guyard-Guillot, a French acrobat, plummeted to her death June 29 during a performance of Cirque du Soleil's 'Kà.'

sarah-guyard-guillot-600.jpgA show begins. A life ends.

Such was the tragically surreal night in the otherwise entertainingly surreal world of Cirque du Soleil, which on June 29 officially unveiled its new Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay while over at the MGM Grand’s K?, acrobat Sarah Guyard-Guillot lost her life in a horrific fall in front of an audience.

Authorities will investigate and Cirque has pledged cooperation into the first onstage fatality in its 29-year-history, an incredible beat-the-odds statistic?even though Guyard-Guillot was not a statistic, but a person, an artist and a 31-year-old mother of two children, ages 8 and 5.

(Earlier in the week, on June 26, Cirque experienced a bad omen when an airborne performer in ONE crashed to the stage, fortunately suffering only a mild concussion. Show officials said he is expected to return.)

Reportedly, the French-born Guyard-Guillot (nicknamed Sasoun), a veteran?K??cast member, was suspended from the show’s elevated vertical stage near the end of the production when she slipped out of her safety wire and plunged 50 feet into a pit under the performers.

Death so young is a tragedy on the most basic levels. Tragic that she lost her life. Tragic that her family and friends lost someone they cherished. Especially tragic that her children will grow up without her love.

Nothing mitigates that. Yet the death of an artist in pursuit of art is a more complex idea. It speaks to the quality of your life, rather than the quantity of your years, and why, depending on your outlook, the former is a better measurement of satisfaction and accomplishment than the latter.

Upon hearing the sad news, I thought of the results of a Gallup survey released last week that said 70 percent of Americans were “disengaged” from their jobs?i.e., at best they are bored by them, at worst they loathe them. Given that this artist spent 22 of her 31 years as an acrobat it’s fair to assume she was among the fortunate 30 percent. Who, after all, would devote their life to an art form so beautiful, so creative, and so dangerous, if not out of genuine passion?

At the risk of over-dramatizing and overstatement, I’d suggest that the staggering 70 percent of people who mentally and emotionally disconnect from what they do for 40, 60, even 80 hours a week die a tiny bit each day, while this dedicated artist lived every minute of those same hours, days, months and years.

Surely she had problems and sorrows like we all do. Yet when you recalibrate the math along those lines, her life likely reads as longer and fuller than the facts in an obituary can convey.

Strange as the reference seems, I flashed back to Patrick Swayze’s daredevil/criminal surfer character in Point Break, who said: “It’s not tragic to die doing what you love.” And then does.

Hopefully for those who loved her, and for the millions who loved watching her though they didn’t know her name, it will ease the grief just a little to think that Sarah Guyard-Guillot died doing what she loved.

Thank you for the joy of your artistry, Sarah. Rest in peace, dear lady.

To make donations for Guyard-Guillot’s children and to share memories, visit

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