Let's face it: When we think of Mikhail Baryshnikov, we think primarily of his Cold War-inspired 1985 film White Nights
, in which he and Gregory Hines dance themselves out of entrapment in the Communist Soviet Union. It's not that we don't know about Misha's international reputation as one of the greatest male dancers of our time or that he was the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre for nine years. It's just that ballet rarely filters down from the gray-haired elite to the young hipsters, unless a pop-culture movie or movement comes along to shake things up. While not as far-reaching as the Hollywood movie, White Oak Dance Project
has become an accessible gateway for younger folks to appreciate the fine art of dance. Founded in 1990 by Baryshnikov and Mark Morris, WODP is now a staple in the international dance community, regularly commissioning work by the edgiest choreographers around and then touring those creations all over the world.
If you're finally ready to see Misha dance, Cal Performances is presenting the 54-year-old leaping wonder and his acclaimed modern dance troupe for three nights in Berkeley. On the program are two works by renowned choreographer Lucinda Childs, including a solo piece for Baryshnikov called Largo and a new piece called Chacony, in its Bay Area premiere. The group also performs a new work by British choreographer Sarah Michelson called The Experts and a revival of Early Floating, an Erick Hawkins piece from 1961. Staged with four dancers, Early Floating features Baryshnikov in the principal role; the piece is accompanied by a historic recording of its original music -- pianist Lucia Dlugoszewski's "Five Curtains of Timbre." Buy your tickets ahead of time, as Misha has a tendency to sell out.