Although we often have talented and well-known guest instructors visit our Dance Program, it isn’t every day that the instructor not only started her own dance company and is a brilliant professional dancer in her own right, but also the daughter of perhaps the greatest male ballet dancer of all time. Shura Baryshnikov visited our campus for three days in late September, teaching our students performative improvisation and a refined floor technique in which ideas of leverage, momentum and space are transferred from the vertical plane (standing) to the horizontal plane (lying).
Baryshnikov is an interdisciplinary movement artist who works broadly as a dancer, actor, improvisor, movement designer, and somatic movement educator. In addition to being a co-founder of the Doppelganger Dance Collective, she is Head of Physical Theatre for the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Program, an Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University and has also instructed at MIT, Dean College, Rhode Island College, Salve Regina University, and Connecticut College.
In addition to the instruction portion of the workshop, Baryshnikov gave a talk about her life to students, opening up about the challenges of building a career out of many varied interests and finding one’s own unique voice as an artist in the shadow of such prominent parents – in her case, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and actress Jessica Lange. She answered students’ questions about her training and entrepreneurial challenges in founding and maintaining her own dance company, all while juggling household responsibilities as a mother of two.
Baryshnikov was invited to campus by Associate Professor of Dance Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, who danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project for three years, meeting and befriending Shura as part of that experience. “Our students were deeply impacted by Shura’s classes,” Loo said. “Much of what she taught was new for them, and they absorbed a lot. In fact, even weeks later, I am still having students both emailing me and coming up to me saying how much they loved her and how much they learned from her such a short time. This exchange was so rich, we will definitely bring her back.”