Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Harris Theater and Mikhail Baryshnikov

A lady who lives in the neighborhood had posted an email to the list giving away free tickets to the Mikhail Baryshnikov performance at the Harris Theater in Chicago (turns out her husband works for The Fairmont, which is one of the sponsors). The official line:

Hell's Kitchen Dance is an ensemble of young performers, mostly from The Juilliard School and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, who received fellowships from the New York-based Baryshnikov Arts Center. Praised by the New York Times for "virtuoso dancing" during its first tour in 2006, the ensemble's second tour will feature works by choreographers Aszure Barton, Benjamin Millepied, and Donna Uchizono. The works will be danced by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Hell's Kitchen Dancers Aszure Barton, Jonathan Alsberry, William Briscoe, Hristoula Harakas, Lesley Kennedy, Na-Ye Kim, Doug Letheren, Jodi Melnick, Shamel Pitts, Emily Proctor, Ian Robinson, Kyle Robinson, Cynthia Salgado, and Ashley Wallace. The Baryshnikov Arts Center, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s artistic venture that opened its doors in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City in November 2005, is an international center for artistic experimentation and collaboration, which serves as a creative laboratory for emerging and mid-career artists from around the world and across all disciplines. The Hell’s Kitchen Dance tour offers an opportunity for national and international audiences to experience fresh talent and the works created by artists selected by Baryshnikov and produced in the stimulating environment of BAC.

I, of course, jumped at the chance to see Baryshnikov again. We'd seen him once (oh, probably about 10 years ago) when he was doing the White Oak Dance Project. Seeing him dance was one of my "life goals" (which included things like "meet Heinlein," which I didn't get to do...though I did get to have dinner with Harry Harrison and that was pretty much almost as good - I love him too...though I digress). He's just an amazing dancer.

He's 60 now and not doing the same gravity-defying leaps he used to do, but it is still amazing to see him dance. He's very fluid and magnetic. Your eye is drawn to him on the stage.

This Hell's Kitchen production was divided into three acts: 1) Baryshnikov dancing with larger-than-life videos of himself at a younger age (oh, how I wish I could have seen him when he was in his 20's!), 2) Baryshnikov and two female dancers doing a fairly avante-garde modern dance piece to a vaguely oriental and slightly organic piece of music, and 3) Baryshnikov and a whole slew of dancers (all of whom were in bare feet except for the man) doing a modern ballet performance that was very poignant and a little sad, like a lost romance remembered.

The seats we had (I went with Jill and Mikayla and Erin and her two sons--all neighbors...Stan from the barn was there too) were just incredible. Third row. Fairly close to the center. And no tall people sitting directly in front of me. You could see whenever Baryshnikov would get a slight smile on his face, like he was reminiscing about something from years ago.

I don't think the kids quite knew what to make of it. It was ballet like they'd never seen before -- no tutus, no dying swan, no nutcrackers. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I have to admit that I miss the floating leaps -- they were like magic captured...the kind of thing that could make you believe that fairies exist.

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