Photo: tatyanatravel on Instagram
As most patrons of the arts know, the name “Mikhail Baryshnikov” is synonymous with ballet. After all, the 69-year-old Latvian-born Russian talent and father of four is considered the world’s leading male ballet dancer. However, Baryshnikov’s latest gig ventures into a completely different area of the arts- this time around, with a focus on poetry. For the Canadian premiere of Brodsky/Baryshnikov, the iconic Soviet star is performing at Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre and reading the poems of the late Russian poet and Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky. The performance, which is directed by Alvis Hermanis, runs until Sunday, January 28, and is in collaboration with the annual Luminato Festival. Real Style was at the opening night of the one man show, and had a chance to watch the elegant and lithe Baryshnikov from the front seats.
With intensity printed on his face and nimble motions, it was clear that Baryshnikov’s ballet training translated expertly to the stage. While the dancer’s signature pirouettes were absent from this latest routine, he captivated the crowds as he read Brodsky’s poems. Although Baryshnikov was speaking in Russian with English subtitles on a screen above, his facial expressions and passion on the stage meant that no translation was required. The seasoned dancer touched upon a theme of aging and the life cycle, as he brought the poems to life as a sole performer. He repeatedly disappeared inside a glass structure on stage to help illustrate the poems, but this was no everyday box. And with an eclectic performance that brought various forms of art to the stage, it was clear that nothing could keep this artist inside a box, anyways.
As the show wrapped and Baryshnikov was greeted with a standing ovation, the gracious and graceful dancer ended his gig with a series of deep bows. Overall, Brodsky/Baryshnikov proves that beauty, emotion and performance can truly transcend language barriers and cultural differences. Perhaps in these challenging global times, that artistic message was just as strong as the jumps which had made this artist famous in the first place. Whether you have an interest in theatre, in the intriguing Russian culture or in poetry, Brodsky/Baryshnikov is an experience that just might awaken the creative soul.