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Ballet Blackmail?

December 15, 1985

I would like to reply to the charge of blackmail leveled against me by Mikhail Baryshnikov in his interview with Martin Bernheimer ("Baryshnikov Weighs His Options," Dec. 1).

Baryshnikov says that I blackmailed the American Ballet Theatre and himself in an attempt to have a ballet made for me by Maurice Bejart--no ballet, no dancing. That is simply not true.

I never refused to dance. I never demanded that Bejart's Ballet had to be made. I merely asked the company to discuss with Bejart the possibility of staging such a work, since he had already approached me with an interest in doing the project.

Moreover, I was willing to help raise the funds to produce the ballet if Bejart and the ABT came to an agreement. ABT's reply to me was that Baryshnikov himself completely rejected the possibility without any room for negotiations. Who is blackmailing whom?

Baryshnikov goes on to say that I am a bad example for the younger generation of dancers. I was a member of ABT before Baryshnikov defected, and after 15 years of faithfully devoting myself to the company I think I represent today a sense of the spirit behind its founding, the idea that kept it one of the world's top ballet companies for so many years: "the world's greatest dancers performing ballets by the world's greatest choreographers."

During Baryshnikov's tenure as director, ABT has become a company of one star only--Baryshnikov--following one man's taste--Baryshnikov--and with ballets choreographed for one man only--Baryshnikov.

Is this the real American Ballet Theatre?


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