- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

“I’ve seen him fly, and now I’ve seen him drive,” said enthusiastic Kennedy Center trustee Bill McSweeny hailing arts virtuoso Mikhail Baryshnikov Wednesday after the latter’s opening performance in a multimedia production of an allegorical fantasy play in the center’s Terrace Theater.

Called “Forbidden Christmas or the Doctor and the Patient,” the work by the Georgian multimedia artist Rezo Gabriadze features Mr. Baryshnikov acting and dancing the role of an emotionally distraught young man who is convinced he is a car. The cast of five currently is touring this country under the auspices of the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation.

At 56, the still limber Mr. Baryshnikov makes male and female hearts throb just as much as when he debuted in this country after defecting from the Soviet Union in 1974.

Mr. McSweeny recalled seeing him in the Opera House 30 years ago in “Le Corsaire” with American Ballet Theatre: “Everybody wanted to see him; Nureyev had done it and then came Baryshnikov — so young, so thin, so high.”

And what does Mr. Baryshnikov, a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2000, most recall about the place? “So many presidents, so many galas. For me, it’s very important. I danced here practically every year. … It’s a home.”

An obvious winner from the start, the ballet star never rested in a multitude of laurels. Now a New Yorker, he since has embraced movies, theater and photography while managing occasional appearances and exploring new modes of dance as part of the White Oak Project begun with choreographer Mark Morris. An exhibit of his camera skills — beautifully executed nondigital work — runs concurrently with the stage production. Its theme, said the father of four and grandfather of two to photographer Philip Bermingham at the reception, is “travel, friends, family, the people in my life.”

Bolivia’s Ambassador Jaime Aparicio was especially impressed by the music in the production, while Pamela Aparicio praised “the imagination and the simplicity and the acting.” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and John O’Connor as well as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband Martin Ginsburg were among the guests. Asked what drew them to see a Gabriadze work for the first time, Mrs. Ginsburg replied: “A letter from Michael Kaiser [Kennedy Center president]. We live across the way.”

— By Ann Geracimos

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