I am a fan of Baryshnikov. For the record, I was a fan even before he was on Sex and the City. I liked him back in the day – my friend and I oogled over him in the film White Nights. I saw him perform back in 1995 at Art Park in Lewiston, New York with the White Oak Dance Project.
When I saw that he was coming to Toronto, I was like I’m in. What made this more intriguing was that he was doing a performance based on the poetry of Joseph Brodsky.
WHAT?! Dance to poetry. I had to see this.
I had heard of Joseph Brodsky, but was not familiar with his work. Turns out he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. He and Baryshnikov became friends when they both were ex-pat Russians living in New York City.
Back to the performance…
Here is what was interesting: the performance featured Baryshnikov reading some of Brodsky’s poems in Russian (there were English subtitles, thank goodness. I forgot to brush up on my Russian before I went.) There were pre-recorded poems, both by Baryshnikov and Brodsky. During those segments, he danced, kinda. It was more that he interpreted the poem through movement. It’s not like he acted it out, per se, but he kind of showed what the poem felt like.
It was an extremely inventive and compelling way to experience Brodsky’s poems.
Poetry is such a personal experience. You and I could read the same poem and have very different reactions to it, and very different interpretations. Poems are about evoking a mood and feelings (mostly). So to have that translated into visual form, was interesting, and quite frankly, makes sense.
Let’s be clear, if I tried to do that I would look like a fool. But Baryshnikov is able to channel the poems and use his body and movement to express them in a way that is…well…just amazing.
I will leave you with a poem that is recited at the end, “written when Joseph was 17 years old”:
May many successes await you
more than are waiting for me.
May the battle resounding in your chest,
be magnificent and strong.
I’m happy for those,
who may happen
along your way.