Baryshnikov in Japan

Here’s a video of Baryshnikov and Gabriella Komleva performing Don Quixote in Japan when the Kirov toured there in 1971. Thank you to “Ballet Lover” for finding it and posting it in the comments of my Bolshoi / Don Quixote post.

What a treat! (there’s another one of him dancing the same pdd even earlier, in 1969, in that same comment). It’s interesting because the athletics exhibited by today’s dancers are so much more astounding (one thing I’d forgotten to mention about the Bolshoi’s DQ is that in those thrilling one-handed overhead lifts, Vasiliev would not only stand on one leg when doing them, but would go on releve as well, making the audience go nuts with applause) but this older version is still so glorious. In a way that I can’t exactly put my finger on it seems to have even more grandeur. You know what I mean? I’ll post the other video “Ballet Lover” linked to as well, so you can see what I mean. (This one’s with Lyudmila Semenyaka.) I wonder where they’re performing in this one?

Also in regards to Japan, my friend Marie, who comments here frequently and has begun writing a lot about ballet on her own blog – her family owns and operates a Buddhist monastery in Northern Japan. So please keep her in your thoughts right now. She wrote a really beautiful book, Picking Bones From Ash, which recently came out in paperback and Kindle, which takes place largely in Japan. I read it before I knew Marie very well, and I really loved the book; it really made me want to visit Japan.

UPDATE: Marie has an OpEd in today’s New York Times about her memories of Northern Japan, and about her family’s temple (I was wrong to call it a Buddhist monastery – it’s a Buddhist temple).


  1. Jonathan Wallach

    I loved Vasiliev last weekend. But he is not Baryshnikov. Vasiliev was temperamentally suited to the role and he was truly exciting and astounding. But as with so many dancers today it crosses the line out of the realm of classy. Baryshnikov is perfect. His dancing in the 70s and 80s was better than this. But you can see how there isn’t a move out of place and it’s thrilling in its simplicity.

  2. What a treat to see these two videos! Baryshnikov is and always will be my first danseur love. He is amazing. In the Japan video, I feel that Komleva has ugly feet and no grace. In the second video, Semenyaka is graceful, has lovely feet, and gorgeous port de bras. She is a far better dancer than Komleva. Komleva was just cranking out the steps. And I wonder why old-style Soviet pointe shoes were so ugly? This is a pet peeve of mine! They never seem to bend to the arch of the dancer who is wearing them, and in old videos, it’s distracting. I wonder if they were uncomfortable to wear? But I digress…

    • I liked Semenyaka better than Komleva too. Komleva looked unsure of herself and that seemed to lead to a few mistakes. Love Baryshnikov in both though!

      I’ll have to look at the shoes again, but I’ve noticed, now that I’ve seen a lot of current Russian performances up close through the Emerging Pictures Ballet in Cinema series, that their shoes look very different from the ones we use. Theirs often look more like the ones other companies use for practice shoes.

  3. Tonya–This is so sweet. Thank you!

    I just stopped by to catch up on the dance world, since my ABT tickets arrived. I was so happy to see you post a video of Semenyaka. I saw her dance in 88 (I think) when the Bolshoi was on tour and she absolutely blew me away. A very young Nina Ananiashvelli was also dancing with them–but I couldn’t stop watching Semenyaka and Irek Mukhamedov. I feel so lucky I saw them live.

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