Evan and I wandered down to Chelsea this afternoon to check out an exhibit at 401 Projects gallery of photographs taken by Mikhail Baryshnikov of Merce Cunningham dancers. We had seen the photos online at 401’s website and thought they looked… blurry. We’ve known Baryshnikov, one of the two most famous male dancers of the 20th century whose movements are spellbinding, Baryshnikov the star of the Kirov, NYCB and ABT, Baryshnikov the artistic director, Baryshnikov the actor, and Baryshnikov the entrepreneur who opened his own NYC cultural center. Naturally we wanted to see Baryshnikov the photographer, too.
Evan at 401 Projects gallery
I’ve taken plenty of photos of friends dancing on stage, and between bright lights, rapid movement, and user-friendly commercial digital cameras, the photos have always come out very blurry. Pretty, but blurred, colorful streaks of movement awash in lights, too quick for our mediocre shutters to capture. Baryshnikov’s were just the same. One or two were particularly striking in the silkiness of the color and in their pleasing, misty lines, and some were nice to see as a group of silvery, almost transparent looking bodies. The exhibit was nice to look at, but not moving or even particularly interesting. Although Baryshnikov shot them on 35mm, most were blown up too large, and at close range you could tell how pixelated the photographs were. The subject was predictable and vague and I can’t say they provided any insight into Cunningham or the dynamism of dance. While Baryshnikov has and will continue to dominate mastery and innovation in the world of dancing and choreography, he doesn’t hold a candle to photographers like Lois Greenfield.
Evan dancing in Columbia University’s Orchesis Dance Group, Spring 2005
Julie Bakshi in Orchesis Dance Group, Fall 2005
Orchesis Dancers, Fall 2005