One wag called it "The Mark and Misha Show," but the White Oak Project -- the artistic partnership between Mikhail Baryshnikov and modern choreographer Mark Morris successfully and emotionally completed its 15-city tour last night at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.
The White Oak Project may be the ultimate pickup dance troupe, with members of Mr. Morris' dance company bolstered by Mr. Baryshnikov as well as seasoned dancers from Martha Clarke's American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Danish Ballet and Paul Taylor, just to name a few.
The program consisted of five works, all choreographed by Mr. Morris.
Mr. Morris' dances have a sense of immediacy and challenge about them. They are often paradoxical. Repetitive gestures are overlaid on convoluted spatial designs or phrasings that respond organically to the music.
"Cononic 3/4 Studies" is a basic description of the opening work, but doesn't give a clue to the cleverness and puckish whimsy of Mr. Morris' choreography as he manipulates Mr. Baryshnikov and eight dances through a series of waltz phrasings. The work is both a parody and celebration, and its off-centered balances, falls, eccentric lifts, all evolve into a grand finale of high-charged energy.
What everyone wanted to see, of course, was Mr. Baryshnikov dance -- and he did in four of the five works. In "Ten Suggestions," a wonderful and expressive solo, the famed dancer met the audience's expectations. The piece in 10 harmonious sections was simply Mr. Baryshnikov dancing -- and dancing beautifully with a chair, a hat, a ribbon and himself. There was nothing flashy in the dance, no pyrotechnic leaps, no flashy spins, but the pure fluidity of his gestures.
"A Lake," the most classically attuned work, closed the program. It was here among the fragments of balletic structure and form that Mr. Baryshnikov performed the leaps that the audience was waiting for. "A Lake" is mysterious, languid, brash and joyful, and amid its fast-changing patterns and slow images that inexplicably dissolve was Misha dancing, not a superstar but a very, very good dancer.
And the audience stood up and cheered.