Baryshnikov, A Different Kind of Dancer
Mikhail Baryshnikov may not be dancing full out these days, but he’s applying his formidable experience as a performing artist to other projects. The latest is a tribute to his great friend Joseph Brodsky, the Russian poet in exile who died in 1996.
Baryshnikov performing in Brodsky/Baryshnikov. All photos by Stephanie Berger.
Directed by Alvis Hermanis, the artistic director of the New Riga Theater, Brodsky/Baryshnikov at the Baryshnikov Arts Center does not list a choreographer in the credits. But the 68-year-old dancer worked collaboratively with Hermanis on both speaking and moving, and there were passages where he translated Brodsky’s dense, unflinching poetry into movement. Hermanis is quoted in this review as saying about the movement sections, “These things are not fixed—each evening they’re slightly different... It’s not the possibility of dance, but the impossibility of dance.”
Perhaps what he meant was that Misha has shed his ballet technique for this role. Having worked with many downtown choreographers, from Trisha Brown to Yvonne Rainer to Annie-B Parson, he has gained a more natural way of moving that does not identify him as a dancer first. But there is no doubt that he expresses himself best in motion. In Brodsky/Baryshnikov, even though he was playing a man nearing the end of his (rather gloomy) life, he still cut to the heart of things in movement.
Within the intimate space of the Jerome Robbins Theater, scenographer Kristine Jurjane created an even smaller area, a kind of enclosed 19th-century porch, a space for fantasy.
Brodsky’s poetry, either spoken by Baryshnikov or on recording, provided an astonishing range of light to dark—mostly dark. We English speakers in the audience caught what we could from the subtitles above the enclosure. Even though Misha wasn't performing the steps of a choreographer, I kept seeing, through the vessel of his motion, other dances in history:
- During a poem that included the line “You never see the same cloud twice,” Baryshnikov seemed to enact Nijinsky-esque profile positions. Afternoon of a Faun.
- During a section about a black stallion, he struck a proud pose, leg forward on an arched foot, then eventually got jittery, almost spastic. Flamenco gone AWOL.
- He flitted swiftly across the porch to a poem about the short life of a butterfly. As the verbal scroll above described its ornate wings, he crossed his wrists and fluttered his fingers. The butterfly faded, but not quite. We were close enough to see the faint beating of the hands as the butterfly lost its life. As poignant as any Dying Swan.
- In a poem about tragedy, Baryshnikov seemed to stab his belly and pull out his guts. Quite alarming in its violence. I haven’t seen anything that intense onstage since Eleo Pomare’s Junkie.
- And in the most elegiac section, while a poem described a flower, Misha
surrendered to its fragrance with such pleasure that he looked like a woman lost in a dream. Spectre de la Rose.
The words of the last poem resonated: “Life—is the sum of tiny movements.”
Brodsky/Baryshnikov runs until March 19. Click here for more info.
What if there was a way to get your dancing in front of the likes of Desmond Richardson, d. Sabela grimes and Vincent Paterson all at once? Just in case you needed another excuse to break out your best moves this week, the Dare to Dance in Public Film Festival is back, and Richardson, grimes and Paterson are among this year's judges.
Dancers and non-dancers alike are invited to submit short dance films to the international online festival, with one caveat: The dancing has to take place in a public space.
The dancers file into an audition room. They are given a number and asked to wait for registration to finish before the audition starts. At the end of the room, behind a table and a computer (and probably a number of mobile devices), there I sit, doing audio tests and updating the audition schedule as the room fills up with candidates. The dancers, more nervous than they need to be, see me, typing, perhaps teasing my colleagues, almost certainly with a coffee cup at my side.
When we're talking about the history of black dancers in ballet, three names typically pop up: Raven Wilkinson at Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Janet Collins at New York's Metropolitan Opera and Arthur Mitchell at New York City Ballet.
But in the 1930s through 50s, there was a largely overlooked hot spot for black ballet dancers: Philadelphia. What was going on in that city that made it such an incubator? To answer that question, we caught up with Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet founder (and frequent Dance Magazine contributor) Theresa Ruth Howard, who yesterday released her latest project, a video series called And Still They Rose: The Legacy of Black Philadelphians in Ballet.
Janie Taylor didn't know if she'd ever return to the stage. But that's exactly where the former New York City Ballet principal has found herself: Nearly three years after retiring, she is performing again, as a member of L.A. Dance Project.
Taylor officially debuted with the company at its December 2016 gala in Los Angeles, then performed in Boston, via live stream from Marfa, Texas, and at New York's Joyce Theater before heading off on tour dates in France, Singapore, Dubai and beyond.
"She is wildly interesting to watch—and not conventional," says LADP artistic director Benjamin Millepied. "There are films of Suzanne Farrell dancing, where you feel like the music is coming out of her body," he says. "I think Janie has that same kind of quality."
Last night was not your average Thursday at Bay Ridge Ballet in Brooklyn, New York. Studio owner and teacher Patty Foster Grado—a former Parsons Dance Company dancer—was teaching a boys class, when with only five minutes left, she heard commotion in the waiting area and someone yelled, "There's a lady giving birth in the bathroom!"
Where can you watch Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Coppélia and Le Corsaire all in one place? Hint: It also has extra-buttery popcorn.
Yep, it's your local movie theater. Starting this weekend, theaters across the country will be showing Bolshoi Ballet productions of classical and contemporary story ballets.
When commercial dancer Danielle Peazer took on an ambassadorial role with Reebok in early 2016, she didn't realize the gig would also lead to a career shift. But while traveling with and teaching workshops for the brand, the idea for DDM (Danielle's Dance Method) Collective started to take shape.