Misha Makes Cameo Appearance on Opening Night

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

For a few shining moments Tuesday night, the legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov--looking god-like, yet vulnerable--mingled among mere mortals at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel.

And then he was gone.

“It’s wonderful that he would come,” said a breathless Stewart Woodard, president of Center Dance Alliance, host of a party that feted members of the American Ballet Theatre, which Baryshnikov directs. “We’re all extremely excited.”

Baryshnikov had just sat in Segerstrom Hall at the Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa along with 2,200 other worshippers of the dance to view the troupe’s opening night performance--and the first performance of its national tour--of “Raymonda, Grand Pas Classique,” “Symphonie Concertante,” and the world premiere of “Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1.”


“I think it was a good performance,” said a weary Baryshnikov, hands pushed in his pockets, as he strolled into the ballroom. “I’m never perfectly happy. But, yes, I think it was a good performance. What can I say?”

And then, after a brief exchange with associates, the man they call Misha strolled into the night.

There were consolations. Clark Tippet, choreographer of “Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1,” arrived grinning and bright-eyed, ready to celebrate. “It was like being at a rock concert,” Tippet said, referring to the roar of applause his piece received. “People were cheering. I didn’t know what to do, I was so surprised.”

But he was unhappy about having to perform (substituting for dancer Robert Hill, who was injured). “Being a dancer was not my favorite thing,” Tippet said. “I was very drained, didn’t have all of my strength. Dress rehearsal didn’t go well and I’d been thinking: ‘Oh well, I can always go to computer school.”’


Tippet said Baryshnikov had been “extremely supportive and generous” in allowing his work to be featured on an opening night. “He’s a very nice guy. And he’s smart; he sees someone worth investing in.”

Ballerina Martine van Hamel, female lead in “Raymonda,” said the Center was a “beautiful theater. Very nice.” And she whispered that to dance for Baryshnikov is “demanding. You always feel he wants the best from everyone. Nothing less.”