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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.

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Courtesy of NewsOK from a 1956 article in The Daily Oklahoman

Yvonne Chouteau, former ballerina with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and one of Oklahoma City Ballet's founding artistic directors, died on Sunday at 86 years old. Chouteau was one of the “Five Moons," five Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who gained international acclaim in 20th century. (The others' names you might recognize: Marjorie and Maria Tallchief, Rosella Hightower and Moscelyne Larkin.) In this clip from the documentary Ballets Russes, we can see rare footage of Chouteau's luminous stage presence. She seems to bask in the spotlight's glow during the prayer variation in Coppélia, floating across the stage with perfect, tiny bourrées. In the next dance sequence, she swoops low and springs to relevé with such exuberance, you can't help but smile.

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The Ballets Russes famously emphasized collaboration between choreographers and composers, and Alonzo King’s work with world musicians follows in this tradition. It’s fitting, then, that Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet is scheduled to open the Monaco Dance Forum’s centennial celebration of the Ballets Russes with a reimagining of the historic company’s 1910 Schéhérazade. For his interpretation of the celebrated ballet, premiering in Monte Carlo December 9, King recruited renowned Indian composer Zakir Hussain, who will transcribe Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s original score for ancient and contemporary Persian instruments.


King says his new choreography for Schéhérazade is inspired by the story—in which the heroine prevents a vengeful king from killing her and others by telling mesmerizing tales—rather than Michel Fokine’s original steps. “The essence of Schéhérazade is transformation,” says King. “Her love and wisdom change a bitter man. That’s my starting point.” —Kina Poon

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