Washington is slated to be the scene of an important ballet "first" next year wen dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov appears as guest artist with the Washington Ballet in a ballet to be created especially for him by the company's resident choreographer Choo San Goh. This will be the first time Baryshnikov has collaborated with a relatively unknown (outside Washington) choreographer not from the ballet mainstream.
Baryshnikov, who is just returning from Denmark where he was performing with the New Yor City Ballet, has said he will rehearse with Goh and the company in Washington in late December or January, and dance the world premiere of the new work here in 1979 at a date and theater to be determined later.
Baryshnikov and Goh met for the first time in Washington last spring, when the former paid a brief visit to Mary Day's school of Washington Ballet, specifically to see some of Goh's work performed by the company. Baryshnikov, on the lookout for promising choreographic talent, had heard about Goh and expressed a desire to see his ballets. Members of the Washington Ballet performed Goh's "Fives" and Synonyms" especially for him, in practice clothes, to taped music, in one of the schools's small studios one afternoon. Baryshnikov was enthusiastic about what he saw, and began discussions with the choreographer about the possibility of working with him in the future.
At that time, Baryshnikov was still a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, which had just presented the world premiere of his production of "Don Quixote" at the Kennedy Center. Baryshnikov's announcement that he was leaving ABT to join the New York City Ballet, in order to work with choreographer George Balanchine, followed shortly thereafter.
This past summer he made his first appearances with that company at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. In Copenhagen he danced with the company again during its week-long Danish engagement. His next appearances with the New York City Ballet will take place this fall, during the company's season at the New York State Theater. He will also dance as a guest artist with the Louisville Ballet in November.
Baryshnikov has had a particulary amiable association with Washington since he first danced here, not long after his defection in 1974 from Russia's Kirov Ballet in Canada. The popular Twentieth Century-Fox movie, "The Turning Point," which earned him an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the Russian dancer called Yuri, premiered at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. As a principal with ABT, Baryshnikov partnered ballerina Gelsey Kirkland (who left the New York City Ballet to join ABT for this purpose) for the first time anywhere during the company's Kennedy Center season in the fall of 1975.
Both of Baryshnikov's full-Scale ballet productions for ABT, "The Nutcracker" and "Don Quixote," were premiered at the Kennedy Center.
Choo San Goh is presently visiting his family in his native Singapore and will return to Washinton in early September to work with the Washington Ballet in preparation for the company's performances at Lisner Auditorium Sept. 29 and 30.
Goh, whose family is Chinese, is 30 years old - exactly Baryshnikov's age. After receiving his early ballet training in Singapore, he danced with the Dutch National Ballet for five years, before coming to the Washington Ballet as resident choreographer at the invitation of director Mary Day in 1976.
Goh has been choreographing ballets since his high-school years. Since coming to the Washington Ballet, he has mounted a number of works from his Netherlands years, and has created six new ballets for the Washington troupe. Goh's presence has undoubtedly helped to generate the new spirit of creative ferment that has been a conspicious feature of Washington Ballet performances in recent seasons.
He has also staged some of his ballets for the Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Company and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and spent this past summer staging still others for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Joffrey II Ballet, and the First Annual Choreographers Conference held at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn.