Baryshnikov arrives to perform

Self-deprecating ballet dancer comes to "meet a new generation."

By ORI J. LENKINSKI
June 25, 2010 02:33
3 minute read.
Baryshnikov with Ana Laguna.

mikhail baryshnikov 311. (photo credit: Bengt Wanselius)

Despite recent cancellations by other international artists, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the famed Russian-American ballet dancer and actor, arrived in Israel this week to honor his commitments to perform.

On Saturday night, Baryshnikov and fellow dancer Ana Laguna will perform Three Solos and a Duet at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. Next week, the two will perform three more times at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center.

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 “I made this commitment a long time ago,” he told a press conference Thursday morning at Suzanne Dellal. “The United States and a lot of European countries are deeply concerned about what is going on in this part of the world. It painfully affects what happens in our internal politics.

“It is an enormous job to be impartial and to be constructive. We all hope that this conflict will be resolved as soon as possible,” he said.

Baryshnikov, named by many as one of the three greatest dancers of the past century, along with Rudolf Nureyev and Vaslav Nijinsky, was applauded by the 50 or so journalists when he and Laguna were ushered into the room by Yair Vardi, artistic director of the Suzanne Dellal Center, and he proved a charming and charismatic speaker.

“It always takes chutzpa to go on stage,” Baryshnikov told the reporters, self-deprecatingly.  “It’s every entertainer’s karma and it’s a bit embarrassing, because you are saying ‘I think I’m good enough to go on stage.’”

Applied to Baryshnikov, “good enough” sounds like a spectacular understatement. The 62-year-old has danced on practically every major stage in the world and has starred in several feature films.

While on tour with the Bolshoi Ballet in the 1970s, Baryshnikov defected from the Soviet Union to Canada and continued to America, where he was hired to be a principal dancer with The American Ballet Theater. In 1990, Baryshnikov and Mark Morris created The White Oak Project, where Baryshnikov spent 12 years dancing. It was during his time with the White Oak Project that he last visited and performed in Israel.

He recently founded the Baryshnikov Arts Center in Manhattan, where he encourages and develops young choreographers.

Unlike many of his peers, Baryshnikov never tried his hand at choreography. “I’m not a choreographer or a theater director. I am not a teacher or a guru. I’m just a dancer,” he said.

Ana Laguna was born in Spain. The same year that Baryshnikov left his home country, Laguna joined the Cullberg Ballet in Sweden. She spent almost 20 years with the troupe, performing works by the world’s most renowned choreographers, including Ohad Naharin and her husband, Mats Ek.

Three Solos and a Duet includes two duets by Ek – “Solo for Two” and “Place” – as well as two solos danced by Baryshnikov: “Valse-Fantasie” by Alexei Ratmansky and “Years Later” by Benjamin Millepied.

“Years Later” is a multimedia work in which Baryshnikov dances alongside a video of himself at age 17. “This is a very intimate project. I hope the audience will enjoy it,” he said.

Baryshnikov admitted that his departure from the stage, which, he said, “will be a bittersweet moment,” may not be far off.

Meanwhile, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy being here. “I have a lot of friends in Israel, my former classmates and people that I danced with, dancers I admire,” he said. “Hopefully we will meet a new generation of your audience and dance lovers.”


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