The day I met Mikhail Baryshikov
In 1988, I was shuttling between two repertory companies -The Riverwalk in New Orleans and St Louis Union Station in St. Louis, Missouri. I was on the New Orleans to St. Louis leg of this particular trip. As my travel companion and I boarded our flight I recognized a slight figure, in jeans and a baseball cap, hurry past me and take his seat. This particular man was (and still is for that matter) a great, GREAT dancer. An inspirational dancer. Inspirational to me and many of my fellow company members. I had taken classes at ABT when he was Artistic Director between 1980 and 1989. He was, god-like, with God given talents and beauty. I revered his talents. As I have And I am not easily star-struck, when push comes to shove they are pretty much just people. I am sufficiently satisfied to admire them from afar or at the very least use elements of their talent, professionalism and experience to enhance my own art. But this was Mikhail Baryshnikov!
For some reason, on this particular day, on this particular flight, I felt it behooved me to, very quietly, nonchalantly, approach him for an autograph (ok I was still young but haven’t made that mistake since). I was a bit nervous because after all when one is face to face with an icon it can take your breath away.
I took a clean drink napkin, and with no regalia, walked back to his seat. I leaned down so as not to make a spectacle of myself and said barely above a whisper, "Mr. Baryshnikov, I am a dancer and an admirer of yours, may I please have your autograph?" Without looking up or looking at me, he snatched the napkin from my hand, scribbled his name (today, I still swear it looks like it says Mikhail Gorbachev not Mikhail Baryshnikov), and again without looking up thrust it towards my face. I must have looked dumbstruck because the woman sitting next to him looked at me and mimicked "I didn't know who he was" and then shrugged like she felt sorry for my moment of humiliation. I went back to my seat and didn't say anything for a moment. Then my travel companion asked what had happened and I recounted my moment of ecstacy and pain. When we landed, I was greeted by my entire company, complete with balloons and signs and singing. What a contradiction! From humiliation to validation in the span of a plane ride! Mr. Baryshnikov disembarked, took note of the fanfare and scurried off. I told one of the company and he squealed and took pursuit, returning only minutes later to declare that Misha had left the building on a flight to New York. Dissed by the best. I'm ok with that!