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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Baryshnikov's dance magic
Baryshnikov and White Oak Dance Project
White Oak Dance Project first performed in 1990
By BBC News Online's Olive Clancy in Edinburgh

"They wouldna want tae show this in Glasgow," whispered the woman beside me to her neighbour half-way through the performance of PASTForward.

The pair giggled and I took it that they had arrived expecting to see Mikhail Baryshnikov, ballet legend, he of the movie White Nights, in full flight.

And they, as I suspect many in the audience, will have been disappointed.

PASTForward is a collection of minimal, conceptual and experimental dance from the 1960s and 70s.

This is not the sort of dance as most of us would expect to see.

Huddle explores ideas of community and was created in 1961
The piece that made the ladies laugh involved a single female dancer, seated on a stool with a wire basket on her head, calmly stuffing her mouth with what looks like washing up sponges and foam hair rollers.

No, it is not an easy evening.

Other dances include a work - Homemade - by Trisha Brown, one of the founders of US post-modern dance.

In this Baryshnikov wears a camera on his back while he moves, while the whole thing is projected from his back onto enormous screens.

Mikhail Baryshnikov
Baryshnikov defected from Russia and the Kirov Ballet in 1974
Taken alone these works might have been impossible to watch.

But the programme includes video tapes of the choreographers explaining their works and a voice-over by Baryshnikov, explaining what the movement was about.

The Judson Church in New York was where the choreographers featured in PASTForward used to meet up to perform and discuss dance.

We were told about the political and social climate of the time and how these radical dances were a response to the time.


We heard one choreographer explain how his work was booed, even by the radical audiences that would attend Judson.

Slowly the evening evolves and you see how the thought behind such dance progressed and influenced contemporary works.

The final dance, Lucinda Child's 1993 piece Concerto, brings the evening up to date and left me breathless.

All seven dancers, dressed in black, dance magnificently with a vaguely Flamenco arm movement to a thundering Górecki piece in harpsichord and strings.

I did not get to ask the women what they thought, but such a performance could leave nobody wanting.

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