CULTURE

Mikhail Baryshnikov in Athens

It’s only a matter of time now before Mikhail Baryshnikov arrives in Greece. And if I were to choose one performance that would I would define as not to be missed from the Athens Festival dance program this summer, this would be it. Baryshnikov is set to appear in «Three Duets,» at the Pireos 260 venue, from July 5 to July 10. These five nights of three duets include the following works: «Memory,» «The Common Foreign Language of the Red-Haired People» (scheduled to make its world debut in Athens) and «Place.» Leading the dance are the celebrated Russian, prominent Swedish choreographer Mats Ek (who will be live on stage this time around), Ana Laguna (Ek’s muse and the leading interpreter of his works) as well as renowned American dancer/choreographer David Neumann. This is what you would call a summit meeting. Top dancer Possibly the most famous dancer of classical ballet alive today, Baryshnikov turned to contemporary dance a number of years ago. He enjoys working with people whom he respects and who provide him with a challenge. This will be obvious on stage. Especially in the performance’s final duet, «Place,» which features Laguna and Baryshnikov. Soft yet glamorous, the duet is ripe with tenderness. Unpretentious and devoid of any sense of drama, the two dancers circle each other, arguing, sighing, even yelling at one another. With her earthy warmth, Laguna is a palpitating heart whose sensibility sweeps you away. Watching Baryshnikov on stage, on the other hand, is truly a unique experience. As he approaches his sixth decade, Baryshnikov remains amazingly attractive in his unbelievable lightness, and the strict control and elegance in his movement. In «Place,» Ek has created a hymn to the fragile beauty of the human body, as interpreted by the two leading artists. Most of us have been in love with Baryshnikov at one time or another. Back in the 1980s, for instance, when Misha was the star soloist at the American Ballet Theater. Was there ever a more sexy, handsome, perfect dancer? His impeccable, crystal-clear technique left you breathless. And how could anyone forget his gifted presence on stage? His love duet from «Romeo and Juliet» alongside Leslie Browne in 1977’s «The Turning Point» or, more recently, playing Carrie Bradshaw’s love interest (and Mr Big rival) Aleksandr Petrovsky on «Sex and the City»? Following Rudolf Nureyev, Baryshnikov has been the single most popular artist in the world of dance, his independent spirit leading the way to Beckett and Kafka in theater, modern dance as well as collaborations with Yvonne Rainer, David Gordon, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton and Lucinda Childs. At the helm of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City, Baryshnikov’s work continues to unfold through plenty of experimenting and many challenging collaborations. At Pireos 260, Tavros, next to the School of Fine Arts.