Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
For Mikhail Baryshnikov, Wednesday night's "Live From Lincoln Center" telecast of the American Ballet Theatre Company from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera was at once a harbinger of the future and a memento of an extraordinary past. As of this summer, Baryshnikov will leave ABT, where he has reigned in stellar glory for the past four years, to join the New York City Ballet, where the word "star" is verboten.
Yet, Wednesday night, here was Baryshnikov dancing in a celebrated ballet - "Theme and Variations" - by City Ballet Director George Balanchine, who ironically enough created the work in 1947 for the Ballet Theatre troupe. Baryshnikov's parner, moveover, was Gelsey Kirkland, a ballerina who herself was schooled and developed by Balanchine as a New York City Ballet dancer.
Kirkland left Balanchine to join Baryshnikov at ABT. Now Baryshnikov is leaving ABT to join Balanchine. All this lent a special halo of poignancy to their joint performance, which proved again what we already knew - that Kirkland and Baryshnikov have been an unparalleled pair, the loss of which will be a severe blow to ABT; and that Baryshnikov is likely to plump as many new balletic dimensions in the Balanchine repertoire as he did in his stint with ABT.
The evening's program as a whole, whether consciously planned as such or not, was a tribute to the influence of Russians on American ballet fare - Balanchine and Tchaikovsky in "Theme and Variation"; Marius Petipa in the "Don Quinote" pas de deux (brilliantly danced by Fernando Bujones and Natalia Makarova); Michel Fokine in "Les Sylptides" and "Firebird" (with Cynthia Gregory stunning in the title role); and composer Igor Stravinsky in the latter as well.
Visually, the Program had its ups and downs, but overhead shots were resourcefully used to reveal the geometrics of ensemble patterns.