Baryshnikov puts focus on contemporary dance
By Carol Egan
Special to The Advertiser
Mikhail Baryshnikov's name has long conjured up the essence of classical dance, even though knee problems made him stop performing ballet before the age of 40.
Now 61, Baryshnikov's passion for dance remains strong, but when he performs at Hawaii Theatre this weekend with Ana Laguna in "Three Solos and a Duet," he will be performing minimalist post-modern dance.
It is, he said in a recent telephone interview, his "current passion."
It's easier on the knees, but still full of grace and beautiful.
"At this period in my life I'm much less interested in ballet," he said. "I rarely go to see it. My interest now is much more in contemporary, avant-garde dance."
He and Laguna, a former soloist with Sweden's Culberg Ballet, will perform works by three international choreographers who created works specifically for the program.
The performance is designed to capture Baryshnikov's remarkable physical presence and lifetime of experience. The New York Times described the show as "portraits of the dancer as mature artist, one with remarkable physical clarity."
It's also a break from the most recent chapter in his life, which is spending time as the founder and artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.
These days, he golfs, works in the studio for a few hours every day — and remains diligent about keeping in dance shape.
Asked to reflect on his career, Baryshnikov instead gave an overview.
"It would not really be fair to think of highlights," he said. "Some of the failures have been as important as the successes because it is from failures that one learns and improves. Every experience, no matter how successful, is valuable."
Born in 1948, Baryshnikov entered the Vaganova School in St. Petersburg at 15. Upon graduation he was asked to join the Kirov Ballet as a soloist. In 1974, following the leads of fellow Kirov alumni Rudolf Nureyev and Natalia Makarova, he defected to the West, where he was proclaimed by The New York Times as "one of the greatest dancers in history."
He's also appeared in movies, the first in 1977 when "The Turning Point" garnered him an Oscar nomination. Other films and television appearances followed, though he never really became a big-screen star, or wanted to become one.
"I never depended on the movies as a second career," he said. "It was never my bread and butter. I have nothing against it, but it has to be a role that really fits. I'm not looking for projects, but if the right one came along, I wouldn't say 'no.' "