Baryshnikov Delves into the Mind of Nijinsky

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.

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