Mikhail Baryshnikov, artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre, will dance as a special guest artist on a Washington Ballet gala benefit program at Lisner Auditorium on Oct. 9, it was announced yesterday by the Washington Ballet and ABT. Baryshnikov will perform with a contingent of dancers from ABT in a new ballet by the Washington Ballet's resident choreographer Choo San Goh, specially commissioned by ABT for its own repertory.
Baryshnikov said in New York yesterday that he was "very excited at the idea of working with Choo San Goh." And Goh, currently a guest teacher at the Joffrey Ballet school in New York, said, "I can't wait to work with him. We've talked about it since 1978, and though it took a long time to happen, I've always thought it would happen when the right time came along."
The performance, which is being dubbed a "Golden Gala" by the Washington Ballet, will have actress Shirley MacLaine as honorary chairman and master of ceremonies. MacLaine spent eight years as a dance pupil of Mary Day, founder-director of the Washington Ballet and its associated school.
Day's comment on the Baryshnikov appearance: "I think it's marvelous -- everyone will have a super charge from having him on the program."
Goh's ballet, as yet untitled, will involve Baryshnikov and another ABT principal, plus an ABT ensemble of up to 15 dancers. The music will be the late Samuel Barber's three-movement Piano Concerto, which is about 24 minutes long. Carol Garner will design sets and costumes. The project will be filmed by a British television unit, "to show the making of a ballet, from earliest rehearsals to performance," according to Goh.
The performance of Goh's work will be called a "gala preview" by agreement of the two companies. The official premiere of the ballet will take place in Minneapolis at the start of ABT's '81-82 national tour in mid-October. The piece will be performed again in Washington when ABT reaches the Kennedy Center for its annual four-week engagement in December.
Also on the program at Lisner Oct. 9 will be an earlier Goh ballet, "Fives," and another new ballet to be announced. Moscow gold medal winner Amanda McKerrow and her partner Simon Dow will dance on the program as regular members of the Washington Ballet.
ABT issued a statement saying, in part: "ABT has found a real home in Washington, and enjoys a very special relationship with Washington audiences. . . We recognize both Miss Day's enormous contribution to the dance world in Washington and around the nation as well as the excitement a new work by a young and talented choreographer like Choo San Goh creates."
Alton Miller, the Washington Ballet's managing director, called the contractual arrangement with ABT "extremely generous" -- Baryshnikov and the ABT dancers will appear without fee, with the local troupe paying only per diems for the artists.
Baryshnikov's appearance will fulfill a promise he made three years ago, after his first exposure to Goh's work. Baryshnikov saw a rehearsal of "Fives" in spring 1978 and expressed a wish to work with Goh and the company. Discussion of the project continued, but in the meantime, Baryshnikov made his move to the New York City Ballet. When he returned to ABT, in fall 1980, it was in the new post of company director. He then saw the prospective Goh ballet as a way of keeping his promise, enriching the ABT repertory and giving ABT a conspicuous role in the encouragement of regional ballet activities.