Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux - NYCB - Baryshnikov and McBride

Well I'm certainly on a ballet kick this year.

I was very young back in the 70's, but all those years ago, even I knew that Misha was a very big deal.  So it was a surprise and a bit of a scandal when he left ABT, plus a successful partnership with Gelsey Kirkland, to dance at NYCB.

It wasn't the best of fits.  The magic of Baryshnikov's dancing in classical ballets was how effortless he made it all look.  That breezy relaxing look didn't translate into Balanchine's oeuvre.  This was due to two reasons: the main one being Baryshnikov's early training at Vaganova.  That elegant Russian technique was too ingrained into Baryshnikov to be utterly banished for Balanchine's style.  The next reason was that Balanchine wanted to show the effort that dancers took to dance in his ballets.  He liked the fact that they were breaking speed and endurance records for him.  Baryshnikov's early training and the egoistic impulse behind Balanchine's work were at very big odds.  Still Baryshnikov managed to overcome setbacks to do very well in many of Balanchine's works.

Another often unspoken reason why Baryshnikov didn't progress further into Balanchine's repertoire was due his height.  Balanchine was into tall, big and athletic ballerinas.  His favorites at the time, Karin von Aroldingen, the legendary Suzanne Farrell and rising star Merrill Ashley were too tall for Baryshnikov.  And that makes me wonder about some of the reasons why Balanchine invited Baryshnikov into the company.

True Misha was a legend and big box office.  But NYCB didn't need the box office at the time.  It had its own stable of hallowed, Balanchine trained dancers.

But it gets me thinking...was one of Balanchine's ulterior motives, in stealing Baryshnikov away from ABT, was to inspire prodigal ballet daughter Gelsey Kirkland to return?  If Kirkland had bit the bullet and returned to NYCB with Baryshnikov, they would have blazed a trail of glory through Balanchine's ballets.  It was never meant to be though.  The NYCB stage wasn't big enough for three very willful ballet geniuses.  Kirkland thought of Balanchine as a kind of neglectful and traitorous father figure.  Baryshnikov was in the process of running away from a very passionate, tumultuous relationship with Kirkland.  At the time, I think Balanchine knew his strength was declining which made choreographing new ballets for Baryshnikov difficult.  It seems a big what if of dreams when you think about it all.

Anyway, Patricia McBride became Baryshnikov's partner at NYCB.  Although they weren't very well matched, they did give this very lovely performance together.

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