Baryshnikov Returns to New York

Robert Maxwell / Art+Commerce

Our greatest living dancer comes back to act and dance in In Paris.

“Wow, Dad, you’ve finally made it!” is how Mikhail Baryshnikov’s kids reacted when he appeared as Carrie Bradshaw’s paramour Alexandr Petrovsky on Sex and the City. Our greatest living dancer, 64, talks to Susan Michals about returning to the New York stage to act (and dance) in In Paris, a play about Russian immigrants.

Q: What does In Paris mean to you?

A: It’s about two people finding love in unusual circumstances, then losing it. For me, it means coming back to my culture, my language.

Q: You speak Russian in this play for the first time in your career. How does that feel?

A: My character speaks French and Russian, which are languages I knew before English. It’s a sweet comfort to feel you can trust your words. You can push it without worrying about slipping up on some grammatical thing. Or if someone misses a line and we have to improvise, there’s not complete panic.

Q: What’s the best dance company in America right now?

A: It’s just been disbanded! I thought the Merce Cunningham Company was the best company because of its unquestionable dedication to the ideas of its founder. I think the Mark Morris Dance Group takes over that responsibility now.

Q: You said in an interview, “Dance is one of the most revealing art forms.” Do you feel the same way about photography, another passion of yours?

A: I think we have to go back to Martha Graham’s comment that “movement does not lie.” A dancer is always who they are onstage: makeup, costumes, whatever. They can’t hide the person underneath. With photography, the images are more my take on what the dance is about. It’s revealing and essential for me, but not in the same way as live performance.

Q: You still live in New York. What do you love about the city?

A: Technically, I’m a bridge-and-tunnel guy! We live about half an hour north, but the city is where I need to be. You never know where it’s going to take you, but you know you’re going somewhere.

In Paris is at Festival di Spoleto, Spoleto, Italy, June 30–July 1 (festivaldispoleto.com); and Lincoln Center Festival, New York, August 1–5 (lincolncenterfestival.org).