Interview

Chatting With Shura Baryshnikov

The daughter of two famous performers creates her own physical art in Providence

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Meet Shura Baryshnikov: Dancer, improviser, educator and movement designer. The daughter of Jessica Lange, an award-winning actress, and world-renowned dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, Shura juggles multiple commitments. In addition to coordinating and teaching in the co-curricular dance program for Moses Brown School, she is a faculty member at Festival Ballet Providence School and a Teaching Associate in the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Programs for Actors and Directors. Oh, and she’s the single mother of two girls – one who dances and does circus arts, and one who acts and sings!

You’ve acted and danced; what informs your work as a performer?
Improvisation practices are where my heart is. I’m a very different actor than my parents, neither of [whom] are improvisers. I’m an actor, but not a film actress, at least not [now], and certainly not a classical dancer. I’ve been able to carve out a little piece of pie that is my own.

What makes a good dance teacher? What do you want to impart to your students?
A good dance [or] movement teacher [must] communicate the joy that one can find in the practice. I want my students to have a kinesthetic experience... that desire for perpetual motion and arrival in the body is what I want to share.

Is it a burden or a blessing to have two famous parents?
Both; I worked hard to build what I have in this community on my own merits. Who my parents are is often a point of interest or curiosity, but what I’ve earned... has been my own. I’ve worked hard at it. I was exposed to incredible artists as a young person, incredible travel and arts education by osmosis; I value my parents as artists and the integrity they showed me over time.

Did you ever consider changing your name?
I wish I’d thought of that when I was an 18-year-old kid going to New York to audition for dance companies. It didn’t occur to me [then]. I’ve had nine lives. I’ve been... in arts administration and design work, a stay-at-home mom and pulled back to the performance world.

If you had to choose between teaching, dancing or choreography...
I wouldn’t ever want to choose. I believe what makes my contribution unique as a performer, educator and dance maker is that I don’t divorce those processes in my creative life. There is a beautiful cycle of renewal that results from doing many things.

Nancy Kirsch is a freelance writer on the East Side. Find her at nancykirsch.com or writernancy@gmail.com.