Baryshnikov leaps toward new venture

Times Staff Writer

Mikhail Baryshnikov has dissolved the White Oak Dance Project, the modern dance company he founded with choreographer Mark Morris in 1990, and turned his energies to starting an arts center on Manhattan’s West Side slated to open in 2004.

“We felt there needed to be an intense effort and drive behind building a center in Manhattan,” said Christina Sterner, managing director of Baryshnikov Productions, White Oak’s administrative arm. “White Oak takes 90% of our company’s time and resources to produce; we developed work from soup to nuts.” She said the dance company and the center could not go forward at the same time.

The Baryshnikov Center for Dance will be at 450 W. 37th St., occupying the three top floors of a theater and performance complex currently under construction.


The center will include rehearsal studios, offices and a 300-seat theater and will lease space to performing groups at discount rates. Mostly, it will serve as a laboratory for young artists to develop work in dance, film, theater and design with the help of established artists.

Violinist Gidon Kremer, stage and opera director Peter Sellars, choreographer Merce Cunningham and filmmaker Pedro Almodovar are on the center’s 18-member artistic advisory panel. Baryshnikov, 54, has raised $3 million of the estimated $8 million cost of the center, which will not rely on government funds.

Plans for the Baryshnikov Center go back to 2000. “It simply feels like the right time,” said Sterner. “We’ve been running White Oak for 12 years. This was a very good opportunity.”

Sterner did hint that the White Oak name, and its tours, could be revived someday. Baryshnikov was meeting on the plan at press time and was not available for comment.