How do you get a dancer to become simultaneously terrified and exhilarated? Have Mikhail Baryshnikov, THE Mikhail Baryshnikov, the world's greatest dancer, watch your rehearsal. How's that for intimidation?? Well today Mr. Baryshnikov attended my rehearsal for Othello, and I have to say, it was one of the most nerve-wracking and simultaneously exciting moments of my life. In truth, it was one of the prouder moments of my career thus far.
When I heard the words, "Mikhail Baryshnikov will be attending your rehearsal this afternoon", I think my heart momentarily stopped, and for a second, I felt every ounce of my blood run through my veins. Terrifying does not even begin to describe that initial moment. Where's the company doctor when you need one, when your blood pressure drops and all 6'6" of you is about to hit the floor faster than you can say "come again?" just from those words alone?! Yet once the thought processed in my head and the blood started pumping again, I soon realized I had a lot to show, a lot to offer, and surely a lot to learn from such a master.
I actually met Mr. Baryshnikov many years ago when I trained for one summer at SAB in New York. He stood by me at the barre many times, and offered his corrections and advice on how to deal with and use my height to my advantage. Clearly, those are impressions and interactions with him I will never forget. I was much younger then, far more impressionable, and today I realized that over the years I have gained a great deal more in terms of my technique and my confidence as an artist. Don't get me wrong, walking in the studio with him sitting there made my heart pound to the point where I wondered if he could hear it, but soon enough I relaxed and realized he was there to offer me, quite literally, the best advice in the world. This was a moment I wanted to be fully present for, and I wasn't going to let nerves get in the way of this experience. He has met and seen so many faces over his career that I was sure he would remember me, but nevertheless, I was and am so grateful for having his eyes watch me and work with me.
It is a humbling experience to have the best in the world work with you, and I feel as though this is an experience of milestones. It is one of my prouder moments in my career thus far because I realize most will never have such an experience, and I do not take that for granted. Through all the dedication and work I have put towards my life as a dancer, this experience makes me realize I have reached that important stage, at a high enough level, to even have the chance to work with one of the world's greatest. I only hope I have many more experiences like this one ahead of me. But I have to admit, it will be hard (nearly impossible!) to top this one. The truth is, you never know what exciting things lie ahead. Until then, I'll just keep dancing and working harder than ever...
And with that said, now that Mikhail Baryshnikov's genius has graced all of us at the Joffrey, please come see Othello! We open this Wednesday, October 14th and run through Sunday, October 25th. Performances are at the Auditorium Theater and tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster, or in person at the Auditorium Theater or Joffrey Tower Box Offices.
(previously written on September 23, 2009)