Mikhail Baryshnikov

 

Susan Jaffe was barely 19 years old when she leapt into the spotlight at American Ballet Theatre. 1982—the year that her Swan Lake debut had critics raving—also revealed her contemporary chops in works like Lynn Taylor-Corbett’s Great Galloping Gottschalk. In this clip from a 1985 recording, Jaffe dances a pas de deux from the piece with Robert La Fosse, who had a successful career as a principal dancer at both ABT and New York City Ballet.

 

If we saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dressed in a suit and chewing gum, we wouldn’t expect to be watching from the seats of a theater. But as he moves across the stage with his arms swaying in a confident swagger, he captures our attention as a different sort of character. As in many classical ballets, he and his partner, former American Ballet Theatre soloist Elaine Kudo, are telling a story. Except now, Baryshnikov is a foil to Princes Siegfried or Charmant—he almost cares less about his partner. But don’t be fooled!

What does Baryshnikov wake up to every morning? Sketches of Ballets Russes legends Sergei Diaghalev and Vaslav Nijinsky drawn by French novelist Jean Cocteau in 1917. A colored pencil illustration of bugs and birds signed "To Misha with Love, Merce Cunningham." A doodle by Trisha Brown of her own feet.

 

Of all the legendary dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov partnered during his career, Liza Minnelli is not the first one you think of. But check out this amazing 1980 clip of the two performing "Too Darn Hot" from Kiss Me Kate. Unfortunately, they aren't scheduled to pull off another duet anytime soon. But they will have a reunion at NYC Dance Alliance Foundation's "Bright Lights Shining Stars" Gala on September 9.

Published December 3, 2009
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