SARASOTA -- Although not originally part of the performance program, Ringling International Arts Festival's artistic director and past performer Mikhail Baryshnikov will be back dancing this month at the Mertz Theatre.
He's part of pal Mark Morris' newest work, "A Wooden Tree." Set to music and words by the Scottish artist and humorist Ivor Cutler (1923-2006), it will make its East Coast debut at the fourth annual RIAF Oct. 10-13 at various venues around the Ringling Museum of Art.
"Misha is a fabulous dancer and a close friend," Morris said in a statement issued by the Ringling Museum. "Our collaboration goes way back. We haven't worked on a dance together for quite a while so it is exciting and comfortable to work on this new piece, 'A Wooden Tree.' He fits right in with my wonderful dancers."
Baryshnikov has been developing and performing in "In Paris," a theater work that toured in the U.S. and Europe since 2010.
"After working on theater projects for the past two years, I wanted to have a taste of dance," Baryshnikov said. "I missed being on stage in that way. It is a great comfort to work with Mark Morris, a dear friend and collaborator whose work I love and who has an ensemble I adore. It is humbling to be invited to work amongst a group of such accomplished dancers."
After only attending last year, this appearance marks a return engagement to performing and collaborating at the festival for Baryshnikov. In 2010, RIAF commissioned and presented three sold-out performances of "Solos with Mikhail Baryshnikov and David Neumann."
The Mark Morris Dance Group's performances at the Ringling International Arts Festival are the Oct. 10 event "RIAF Inspires Opening Night" ($500 per person includes reception, performance and formal dinner in the Museum of Art Galleries), as well as performances Oct. 11-13. Tickets for the dance group's performances are $30, $40 and $50.
In addition, this year's RIAF features stage performances by Shantala Shivalingappa, Ensemble Basiani, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Adam Tendler, Phyllis Chen, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
The event also includes the festival's first film series with screenings of "Carmen and Geoffrey," directed by Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob; "Joseph Brodsky: In the Prison of Latitudes," directed by Jan Andrews; and a double bill, "Labyrinth Within," directed by Pontus Lidberg, followed by "Park Avenue Armory Event," by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.