If you read my blog, you already know that I am in love with Mikahil Baryshnikov, the Danser. Russians are raised with the love of art and it is not uncommon to see parents with young kids at the Bolshoi or Mariinskyi. But my love for ballet was inspired by my uncle Mikhail, who used to dance in the Bolshoi, knew Plisetskaya, Vasiliev and Maksimova and still remains very dashing and elegant in his 7o’s-you should see how he holds his back and how he walks!
When my uncle (named Mikhail incidently too) retired from dansing in the Bolshoi, he went on travelling around the world, teaching ballet and still does it successfully……
At the times when travelling abroad was as rare as sunshine in the UK, my uncle not only brought gifts but videos of Baryshnikov or Nuryev dancing and my cousin and I sat transfixed watching those giants of ballet dance and create magic on stage.
I never saw Nuryev danse ‘live’, but I was blessed to see Misha, as he is lovingly called universally, in London’s Barbican and Sadler’s Wells on several occasion and on one special evening even managed to talk to him for less than five minutes.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a cheeky e-mail, saying that she and her husband were going to see Baryshnikov dance at the Theatre de La Ville in Paris. After a very quick discussion with my husband and mother, plans were made and tickets booked.
A few days before the performance date it looked like I won’t make it, but luck was on my side and I had an interesting evening with my mum, friends and a very Parisian audience-I was surprised that there were so few Russians….
There were four pieces performed-Valse-Fantasie choreographed by the wonderful creative Alexei Ratmanskyi, an extract from Solo for Two, choreographed by Mats Ek, Years later, choreographed by Benjamin Millepied and finally the Place choreographed by Mats Ek.
Baryshnikov, who remains boyishly youthful while aging gracefully-the man has no fat on his body and his muscles will give any 25 year old a run for their money-kept the audience transfixed by his moves, his humour and by just being him, the wonderfully versatile dancer. He lives on stage and his enthusiasm for his craft is still very much palpable, as is his vigour and talent. In Years later he dances against the video of himself, aged 17 (?), while being a student of dance at Vaganova academy, pirouetting at great speed. Mischa is humorous in the admission of age limitations but he does it with such dignity that you know that this is a man who knows who he is and who is at peace with himself.
Place is mesmerising partially because of the performance but also because of the unusual music by Flaskkvartteen that pulls at your heart’s strings and makes you draw in your breath-it transfixes you and takes you away into an unknown realm, an Avatar of sorts.
My only problem was watching Ana Laguna, who I didn’t find graceful or maybe I just didn’t enjoy watching the woman not in her prime-maybe woman’s aging is more painful to watch when you can see what awaits you? But then this is a purely an observer’s comment and is not meant with malice. I think Baryshnikov would have shined even brighter if his partner was younger but then, I am not a performer and I don’t have the performers vision.
I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to see Baryshnikov dance ‘live’ again-those opportunities have been rare, but it makes my memories even more special-but I left the audience thanking my lucky stars for allowing me to be present and seeing the transformation of Baryshnikov from a classically trainer ballet dancer into a very modern contemporary one . Bravo Mischa, bravo !
p.s if anyone can let me know how or where I can get my hands on the recording of the Flaskkvartetten’s piece to which Baryshnikov and Laguna dansed-and God knows I tried to ‘source’ it!-I promise if not my gratitude then a kiss! Anyone?