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Friday, 5 May 2017

Brodsky/Baryshnikov

Mikhail Baryshnikov is a good-looking man. Nearing 70, he has charisma in spades which was in full display last night when I attended his show, Brodsky/Baryshnikov.

Marketing for the show

When I booked my (very expensive) ticket, I didn’t know what the show was about. All that my bedazzled eyes could see was Baryshnikov Baryshnikov Baryshnikov Baryshnikov

Later when I informed the Husband that he would be on child watch duties, he read the marketing material and raised an eyebrow:

You do know that he’s not dancing, don’t you?

Of course I know that. What do you take me for?

And that he’s reading poetry.

Uh, duh. That’s why it’s Brodsky/Baryshnikov. Joseph Brodsky. Poet Laureate.

In Russian. He’s reading poetry in Russian.

Oh.

What could I say?

I had not read the small print but quite frankly, I didn’t care. Baryshnikov could be on stage brushing his teeth and I’d still have gone.

Mikhail Baryshnikov is one the greatest ballet dancers of all time. At the height of his prowess as a classical dancer, he defected from Russia to Canada in 1974. Afterwards he went on to wow the world with dance and forayed into acting, painting, photography and writing. He never rested on his laurels. He’s pushed himself artistically and creatively throughout his life and now nearing 70, he’s still taking creative risks.

Brodsky/Baryshnikov is a one-man show. Over the course of 90 minutes, Baryshnikov recites Brodsky’s poetry as if in conversation with the dead poet and performs set movement pieces throughout. The words (thankfully) were subtitled for an English speaking audience. Whilst I do not speak Russian, the timbre and tone of Baryshnikovs’ delivery was compelling. Who knew he sounded so sexy in Russian? The melancholy and hope that permeates much of Russian art and literature resonated in Brodsky’s words. I found myself loving the poetry. 

When Baryshnikov took his shirt off and started moving, the reaction of the audience was palpable.

Is Baryshnikov is going to dance?

But he didn’t. He did some weird performance Butoh which I didn’t like very much. I didn’t think it suited the show but again, it didn’t matter. This is Baryshnikov. However odd the conception, the movements themselves were as crystalline and precise as ever. At 70, his body could rival most men half his age. He is in good shape.

Moody Russian Dancer

At the end, he came out to take his bow. People stood up and clapped and clapped. Not because it was the best thing they had ever seen but out of respect for this great artist who is still taking creative risks and baring himself onstage. He smiled, bowed and then did a little jump-hop-skip and ran to exit offstage.

People were still clapping so he came on and did it again. Bowed. Jump-hop-skip. Run to exit.  

He did it three times. That little jump-hop-skip-run.

I guess it’s like breathing to him that jump-hop-skip-run. After every show, every performance, that is the way he exits the stage.  He’s been doing it since he was a boy, since he started learning how to dance. His body just does it automatically.  This show was not about dancing but still, he took a dancer’s bow and exit. He couldn't help it. 

It was a weighted moment and it's what I'll remember most about the show. His jump-hop-skip exit embodied so much of Baryshnikov's history and legacy.  To quote the show itself:

Life is the sum of tiny movements. 

-Joseph Brodsky




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