Dores André, Jennifer Stahl, Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung in Forsythe's Pas/Parts 2016 (photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB)

The West Coast Falls for Forsythe

After 40 years in Europe, choreographer William Forsythe recently put down stateside roots as a professor at the University of Southern California's new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. USC is welcoming him with Fall for Forsythe, a monthlong festival that culminates October 21–23, when Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Houston Ballet perform influential works at The Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

“I can't wait to see the way each company dances his work," says SFB artistic director Helgi Tomasson, alluding to the unique blend of rigorous classicism and convention-flouting individuality Forsythe cultivates. SFB will perform Pas/Parts 2016, created on Paris Opéra Ballet in 1999 and extensively reworked on SFB's dancers.

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Adding another milestone to his already untouchable career, Mikhail Baryshnikov will take on the role of iconic ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in director Robert Wilson’s one-man show, Letter to a Man. The work had its premiere in Italy in 2015 and had its U.S. debut as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival on October 15. The show completes its New York run on October 30.

Baryshnikov in Letter to a Man (photo by Lucie Jansch, courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music)

Though Baryshnikov and Nijinsky were ballet titans of their respective generations, Letter to a Man is theater, not dance. And Wilson’s vision doesn't result in a literal biography of the troubled danseur. Rather, it’s an interpretation of the diaries Nijinsky kept while he suffered from schizophrenia. The play’s title is from a letter written from Nijinsky to his former lover and Ballets Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev—when their relationship was such that Nijinsky wouldn’t even say his name.

The play will also tour to University of California, Berkeley, November 10–13; and University of California, Los Angeles, November 18–19.

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Baryshnikov in Letter to a Man. Photo by Lucie Jansch, Courtesy Cal Performances UC-Berkeley.

Mikhail Baryshnikov may have left the classical ballet stage long ago, but his artistic curiosity remains endless—and at 68, he remains endlessly captivating. Whether he’s mentoring emerging choreographers at his Baryshnikov Arts Center, performing Samuel Beckett short plays or dancing alongside Lil Buck in a Rag & Bone fashion campaign, the former American Ballet Theatre star is constantly exploring new avenues of self-expression.

 

Now, he’s portraying famed dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in Letter to a Man, a solo theatrical work directed by Robert Wilson. The production is based on Nijinsky’s haunting 1919 diaries, written over a six-and-a-half week period as he struggled with the onset of schizophrenia. A groundbreaking, controversial dancer and choreographer with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Nijinsky would spend the next 30 years under psychiatric care. Letter to a Man explores his descent into madness. Although it seems more avant-garde theater than dance, there is a considerable amount of movement throughout (choreographer Lucinda Childs collaborated on the project). With or without pirouettes, Baryshnikov’s stagecraft is as galvanizing as ever, as evidenced in this preview clip:

Baryshnikov is touring with the production in Europe this summer, performing in Lyon, France, this week before heading to the Monaco Dance Forum June 30–Jul 3. American audiences will have to wait until the fall—Letter to a Man has its U.S. premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music October 15–30 before heading to Berkeley, California, and Los Angeles in November.

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

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