Dancer Baryshnikov spins tale of life, work at TD talk

World-famous dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov has already made immense contributions to culture, but he still wants to forge ahead and do more, starting with building a new arts center in New York City.

“I like to dream about the future more than look over my shoulder,” Baryshnikov said.

Baryshnikov, a Timothy Dwight College Chubb Fellow, gave a short presentation in the college’s dining hall on Saturday. The presentation featured three short clips, one about Baryshnikov’s life and two of his performances.

The first clip traced Baryshnikov’s life from his training period in Russia to his success as a ballet dancer in New York City, the second featured Baryshnikov and the late tap dancer Gregory Hines in the movie “White Nights,” and the third was of a solo performance by Baryshnikov. Each clip was followed by a short question-and-answer session with dance historian Sally Somers.

Timothy Dwight Master Robert Thompson praised Baryshnikov’s prowess and knowledge of his field.

“He is more than a dancer — he is dance,” Thompson said. “He is a world authority on dance and a down to earth performer.”

Baryshnikov, who served as artistic director of the American Ballet Theater for 10 years and danced with the New York City Ballet under famed director George Ballanchine, used the presentation as an opportunity to announce the opening of his new arts center in New York City.

“Artists always go to New York to succeed and pursue their dreams,” Baryshnikov said. “But there is no place to meet, to show their work, to discuss and evaluate each other.”

The arts center, which will be completed next May, will be a six-story building with a 400-seat theater located on 37th St. and 11th Ave. Baryshnikov said the center will feature programs that focus on the interdisciplinary aspects of art; for example, he said, lighting designers may work with costume designers to learn how lighting design is affected by fabrics.

“It’s great to see the new projects he’s interested in and how he wants to help the development of dance,” Sarah Hughes ’07 said.

Baryshnikov said he has decided not to be a teacher at the center.

“I believe education means creating a human bond with the teacher,” Baryshnikov said. “[My former teacher] knew me better than I knew myself. Here, there’s no way to create the same personal relationship.”

The center will begin hosting programs next summer.

In addition to discussing the new arts center, Baryshnikov spent much of his time discussing the many people he has worked with and sharing his experiences as a dancer.

“Creative people in the theater have such strong convictions,” Baryshnikov said. “Anything that is not their way freaks them out.”

After having worked with numerous choreographers and directors, Baryshnikov said, one of the most advantageous qualities he has learned is how to work well with people.

“I know how to work with people, whether it means having a glass of wine with them or screaming at them,” Baryshnikov said.

While Baryshnikov emphasized the intense training and discipline required to be an artist, he also talked about the need to try new things.

Lindsey Greene ’04 said she was impressed by Baryshnikov’s plans for the future.

“He’s disciplined, but still committed to dreaming,” Greene said. “I was moved by his motivations.”

World-famous dancer and Timothy Dwight College Chubb Fellow Mikhail Baryshnikov (right) stands with Master Robert Thompson after giving a talk Saturday.
Emmanuelle Massicot
World-famous dancer and Timothy Dwight College Chubb Fellow Mikhail Baryshnikov (right) stands with Master Robert Thompson after giving a talk Saturday.

Comments