For many Sex and the City viewers of a certain age, Mikhail Baryshnikov is most recognizable as “Aleksandr Petrovsky,” the Russian artist who woos Carrie, takes her to Paris and whose selfishness even makes Mr. Big look like ‘boyfriend of the year.’ His turn as Petrovsky, however, was just one character in a lifetime dominated by creative pursuits. His most famous role is that of artistic tour de force as he is considered by many to be one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century.
So when I heard he had given 35 boxes of material to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, I decided to check it out. This branch of the NY Public Library is located at Lincoln Center (and just about 10 blocks from where I live). As the website explains, “This preview display includes letters, photographs, and video footage from the Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive.”
The operative word there is “preview” because there really isn’t much to see. There are four televisions mounted on the wall, each showing a different compilation of film footage from his illustrious career. There are also three display cases showing photographs and memorabilia, including letters of gratitude and congratulations from Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The films of his dancing are incredible and, even to an untrained eye, his dancing is remarkable.
However, the display suffers from a serious lack of context. No discussion of his defection in 1974, the different ballet companies for which he danced, why he is considered to be so great, or his work as an artistic director. His wiki bio is vastly more informative than the display dedicated to showcasing his career.
If you are seeing a show at Lincoln Center and you have extra time, by all means, take a look. But there is no need to make a special trip. I feel like that’s information Carrie could have used as well.
See You in the City!
Photo by Annie Leibowitz, publicity picture for the White Oak tour