[for Mikhail Baryshnikov]
The classical ballet, let’s say, is beauty’s keep
whose gentle denizens are moated off from feeling
prosaic things by pits filled up with fiddling,
and drawbridges are hoisted up.
In 1975, the poet and future Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky wrote of his friend—and arguably the world’s most famous ballet dancer—Mikhail Baryshnikov, “How splendid late at night, Old Russia worlds apart, / to watch Baryshnikov, his talent still as forceful.” The two artists had met the previous year at a party thrown by composer Mstislav Rostropovich and remained close until Brodsky’s death in 1996. Forty-three years after Brodsky wrote that poem, Baryshnikov’s talent is still as forceful as ever, although he’s now turned from classical ballet to his artistic directorship of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, along with theater and acting. His new project is a one-man show, Brodsky/Baryshnikov, based on Brodsky’s poetry and directed by Alvis Hermanis, director of the New Riga Theatre in Latvia. Described by the Paris Review as “closer to theater than ballet, a meditation, in part, on aging and death,” this piece blends Brodsky’s text with Baryshnikov’s movement and is performed entirely in Russian, Brodsky and Baryshnikov’s mother tongue, with English subtitles.
Baryshnikov on Brodsky – Jennie Scholick – Poetry Foundation
I esp. liked it when Baryshnikov responded to the question:
What are your favorite Brodsky poems?
That’s not a fair question. A poem you love when you are 20 may not be the poem that excites you at 40 or 60, so I cannot answer this. I’m still discovering.