Mikhail Baryshnikov is starring in a new play, In Paris, at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, which will ultimately end up at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York in August.
In an interview with The Daily Star, the 64-year-old dancer/actor says that because the play is told in Russian, he has enjoyed speaking his native tongue and learning new slang from his younger costars. He said, “It’s a different kind of phonetic pleasure, so to speak…I hear my voice more than when I speak in English. There’s certain [sounds] that roll more comfortably from my tongue, and it’s a bit of a kind of romantic nostalgia about the language, about the culture.”
The play marks Baryshnikov’s American debut onstage. He admits the undertaking has made him anxious: “I hate those first few hours before the show—the uncertainty…I’m a nervous performer no matter what I do.”
Although there’s only one small dance scene in the play, he says he still feels the performance is similar to dancing onstage. He said, “I don’t think that I am doing something so different from what I’ve done in the dance. Of course I am not dancing, but I think this is not a realism play. It is a highly poetic, conceptual kind of palette, the way he tells a story, so you have certain liberties of exaggeration of the character and there is a lot of movement in it”
Although Baryshnikov has had various roles including his Oscar-nominated part in 1977’s The Turning Point and Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend on HBO’s Sex and the City, he is reluctant to return to the screen. He said, “The problem with movies is you have to leave home, and if it’s a big serious movie you have to leave home for six to eight months. It’s problematic. The role has to really fit me right. I read a lot; all the time people send me scripts but they’re not really interesting. It’s always some Russian bandit or a choreographer or an ex-dancer.”