The Ever-Changing Misha
A modern-day eclectic Laurel and Hardy, dance star Mikhail Baryshnikov teamed up with actor Willem Dafoe for a European tour of The Old Woman — a quirky, absurd vaudevillesque show written by avant-garde Russian playwright Daniil Kharms.
Mikhail Baryshnikov – one of the most famous names in dance, world-renown for his incredible jumps in classical ballet – is also famous for his film acting and stage performances. This past summer, Misha (as he’s known in close circles) wowed audiences in the Manchester International Film Festival’s performance of The Old Woman in England, which he co-starred in with actor Willem Dafoe.
The 90-minute production of The Old Woman is based on a 1930’s Russian surreal novella. This obscure performance contains a variety of artistic influences, including vaudeville acting, music, and Picasso-inspired décor. Baryshnikov even had a few speaking lines that were in his native Russian tongue.
In an interview, Baryshnikov was asked if stage acting made him miss classical ballet. “No, I don’t miss it,” he said. “There was a natural progression in my quest for something different.”
It is to no one’s surprise that the once great dancer has now moved on to another form of live entertainment. Now performing in white face and a black suit, he is on stage once more exhorting just as much as he did years before to bring his personality and energy to the stage. Baryshnikov said in a press conference that he wanted to find something more thrilling, out of curiosity, and certainly found it in this play.
The Old Woman continued on tour throughout Europe – stay tuned to see if it will be coming to a theatre near you.
Just like many Russian dancers before him, Baryshnikov defected and became a member of the National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theatre, and New York City Ballet. He also performed with other dance idols, such as Gelsey Kirkland and Natalia Makarova.