Mikhail Baryshnikov is standing alone on stage. A woman walks toward him. Not a prima ballerina, but a young Moscow-born actress named Anna Sinyakina, or “a mysterious creature,” as Baryshnikov calls her.
He doesn’t lift her over his head. She doesn’t spin swiftly between his fingers. Their bodies are still. He speaks Russian for the first time on stage. This is not the image most people have of Baryshnikov performing. He is now 64, about two decades past the period that he considers the peak of his ballet career.
This week, Baryshnikov kicks off the U.S. premiere of In Paris, an adaptation of a short story by Ivan Bunin, the first Russian to win a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933, at Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Bunin lived in exile in France after the Russian Civil War (1918-1920) and died in Paris in 1953, never having returned to Russia. Bunin’s background informs In Paris.
Mikhail Baryshnikov; Photo by Annie Leibovitz
“It’s a very simple story about a White Army general who lives in Paris and meets a young woman, also Russian, and they have a certain tragic love affair,” Baryshnikov says via phone from his Baryshnikov Arts Center offices in Manhattan. He speaks in a matter-of-fact tone, which he maintains throughout our conversation two weeks before the Los Angeles opening. The premiere of In Paris took place in Helsinki in August 2011. The show then traveled to the Netherlands, Paris and Tel Aviv, and it’s scheduled to continue on to Berkeley, Italy and New York. The script is in French and Russian, with English supertitles.
Parallels flow between Bunin’s, Baryshnikov’s and the fictional character’s stories. Baryshnikov’s father was in the Russian military …
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