ContiniArtUK is proud to present the first UK exhibition of the photography of Mikhail Baryshnikov, world famous dancer, actor and accomplished photographer. Dancing Away is a visual representation of Baryshnikov’s very personal interpretation of dance and performance; an expert dancer’s reflection upon his own metier. The exhibition will open at ContiniArtUK in Mayfair from November 2014, during London’s Russian Art Week.
Dancing Away celebrates Baryshnikov as photographer; a medium that the artist explored for two decades before turning his lens to the dance world. As a photographer, Baryshnikov is in the unique position of ‘insider and outsider’ simultaneously. Whilst he may step out of his role as dancer, his intuitive “dancer’s eye” allows him to view every performance from a unique perspective. Each photograph captures a magical moment that has inspired Baryshnikov. “I take thousands of images, and it takes me a long, long time to select. My eye catches it and my heart stops. This is exactly what I want”, explains Baryshnikov, demonstrating that his artistry involves being both photographer and connoisseur.
Baryshnikov’s images capture the movement and fluidity of dance, nothing is static or posed, rather they evoke the enchanting image of dancers in flight. “I wanted the audience to see, to be able to imagine, the movement before and after, not just the frozen moment.”
Truly a renaissance man, Baryshnikov creates the sense of movement through the use of a technique known as long exposure photography, which involves opening the camera shutter for a long duration, thus exposing the lens to more light. The result of this method is the blur that dominates Baryshnikov’s photography, causing the colours and human bodies to appear almost dragged across the print, which in turn gives the work an ethereal quality.
The audience may often interpret a performance into a series of scenes or acts, in order to better understand the work. Baryshnikov’s prints demonstrate the submersion of the dancer into his art, metaphorically symbolising a dancer’s ability to be lost in the performance, or even the music. Baryshnikov himself has described dance as “an activity of the human spirit”, believing “art, when your heart is burning but your mind is cool – that is the best combination”. His extraordinary photography celebrates this artistry, each of the prints focuses on spontaneity, beauty and a lack of inhibition within the dancers.
Baryshnikov’s use of light creates amorphous figures, suggesting the agility of the human body. A strong sense of motion is detected yet there is also an element of stillness, for the human form is never distorted beyond recognition. The background within the photography always remains understated, rather as with Degas, the focus is always with the dancer.
Baryshnikov’s photography has now immortalised the dancer’s experience. Creating a harmonious unity between dance and photography, Baryshnikov encourages his observers to look upon dance in a way they may not usually. Irving Penn and Ilse Bing have had particular influence over the artist’s photography. Having held a number of solo exhibitions of his photographic work, Baryshnikov has also found fans amongst notable photographers, particularly that of Annie Leibovitz. His photographs are undoubtedly aesthetically pleasing, due to the subject matter and use of colour, but they also offer a unique opportunity to observe dance, perhaps only momentarily, in the same way Baryshnikov does.
ContiniArtUK will collaborate with Italian luxury jeweller Damiani, who co‐hosts Dancing Away. As part of its 90th anniversary celebrations, Damiani will showcase some of its most iconic designs at ContiniArtUK’s New Bond Street gallery during the exhibition, including pieces exhibited at the Pitti Palace, Florence, one of a kind pieces that won the Oscars of the jewellery.
About Mikhail Baryshnikov
A native of Riga, Latvia, Baryshnikov was born in 1948 and began studying ballet at the age of nine. As a teenager, he entered the Vaganova Academy in Leningrad, graduating from student to principal dancer of the Kirov Ballet in 1969. In 1974, he left the Soviet Union to dance with major ballet companies around the world including the New York City Ballet where he worked with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. In 1980 he began a 10 ‐ year tenure as Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, nurturing a new generation of dancers and choreographers. From 1990 to 2002, Mr. Baryshnikov was director and dancer with the White Oak Dance Project, which he co ‐founded with choreographer Mark Morris. White Oak was born of Baryshnikov’s desire “to be a driving force in the production of art,” and, indeed, it expanded the repertoire and visibility of American modern dance.
In 2005, he opened the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), a creative home for local and international artists to develop and present work. Since its founding, the Center has hosted numerous artists and productions from the United States and abroad. Baryshnikov’s photography has been exhibited in museums and galleries in Moscow, Madrid, New York, Venice and St Barts among others.Among Baryshnikov’s many awards are the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Honor, the Commonwealth Award, the Chubb Fellowship, the Jerome Robbins Award, the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation’s Ambassador for the Arts Award, and the 2012 Vilcek Award. In 2010 he was given the rank of Officer of the French Legion of Honor. Baryshnikov’s screen credits include The Turning Point with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine for which he received an Academy Award nomination, White Nights with Gregory Hines and more recently the HBO TV series Sex and the City. He also appeared in a number of theatrical productions including a Broadway adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a role which earned Baryshnikov a Tony Award nomination, Beckett Shorts directed by JoAnne Akalaitis at New York Theater Workshop, and in Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman (international tour) with Willem Dafoe.