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Baryshnikov And Laguna At The Harris Theater

By Michelle Meywes Kopeny in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 26, 2009 8:35PM


Most probably recognize Mikhail Baryshnikov as Carrie's love interest on Sex and the City, but I knew him first as the name I wore on my dance tights. The man is a true living legend in the world of ballet, a man who brought the art to the attention of a culture more concerned with television and rock and roll (perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that everyone I told that I was going to see the show knew his name). He is the kind of legend that comes a lifetime before, not the kind that that you still have the opportunity to see perform.

Last night I was lucky enough to see Baryshnikov take to the stage with Ana Laguna for Harris Theater’s opening night of Three Solos and a Duet. This was his first appearance in Chicago since 2007 and one of only eight stops on this tour. It was everything I expected in seeing him live--perfect intentional technique, fluid intricate footwork--but it was not classic in the sense of strict ballet performance. Each dance told a story, with Laguna and Baryshnikov showing that they are both expressive dramatists and actors as well as accomplished dancers.

The first two solos, the first by Baryshnikov, the second by Ms. Laguna, were both stories of love and loss--Baryshnikov’s being the more comical of the two, with him preparing to see a woman he once loved. Laguna’s solo, Solo For Two (with Baryshnikov appearing briefly), was much more dramatic, a woman devastated. The third solo, Years Later, was the highlight of the night for anyone who’s ever admired the incredible talent and capabilities of Baryshnikov. He danced to and played off video of himself that was projected across the entire backdrop. A spotlight at the front of the stage the projected a silhouette of Baryshnikov on the screen, making for a beautiful contrast. The film started with him as a young student doing basic jumps and across-the-floor moves, and progressed through his career with different scenes. At times he mirrored the steps, creating a surreal duet on screen, and others he simply watched.

The last piece, the duet Place, was the most modern of the four pieces. The dance took place with a single table and a white cloth that doubled as the stage and a prop, Baryshnikov and Laguna pulling and tossing them around the stage. I saw it as a drug-fueled night between two lovers, complete with fights and adoration, but it could also be argued that the piece was representative of a firey long-term love affair and the same ups and downs that come fast forward on such a night. Perhaps its intention was to show the similarity between the two.

The only disappointment of the evening (if you could even call it that) was that I did not get to see Baryshnikov do the large jumps and quadruple tours that I jealously admire male dancers for being able to do. But as he watched himself doing ridiculous jumps and pirouettes during Years Later, ending the piece by flipping off the screen and walking off the stage, the audience laughed and it was clear that although he may still be capable of those things, at 61 years of age, he doesn’t have to anymore. Seeing those feats on the screen and watching him watch himself years ago was plenty, if not more satisfying.

Ana Laguna and Mikhail Baryshnikov appear in Three Solos and a Duet throughout the weekend at Harris Theater. Remaining show times are tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow, Sunday, September 27 at 3 p.m. The performances are sold out but if you can find a ticket it's definitely worth it.

This story special to Chicagoist by Michelle Meywes, on loan to us from Transmission