Q: You turned 61 on January 27, which happens to be Mozart's birthday, too.
A: I don't care about birthdays, never. Never celebrate. At some point I stopped paying attention. There might be some psychological reason which I have not yet faced.
Q: Do you want to try to face it now?
A: I really do not.
Q: You rehearse every day, sometimes for six hours. What are you learning about your body at this point?
A: Your body actually reminds you about your age and your injuries—the body has a stronger memory than your mind. It's a constant struggle no matter how old you are. You know, you always train so that you figure out what you don't like rather than what you like about yourself. In the morning you kind of feel your body and say, "I have a very stiff lower back," for example, or "my hamstrings are very tight. I'd like to work on this." In order to really balance everything, I have to work a couple of hours on stretches, although of course at my age there is already a certain point that you cannot step beyond, otherwise you'll get seriously hurt. I'm not pretending that I'm 20 years old.
Q: Did you know that there's tons of footage on YouTube from your breakthrough years as a dancer?
A: Somebody showed me the other day the very first piece I'd done at my alma mater, the Mariinsky Kirov Ballet, which was in the summer of '69, if I'm not mistaken. And I hadn't seen this piece ever! It was by this Russian choreographer, Leonid Jacobsona piece based on a Rodin sculpture. It was filmed for television, but I rarely look at my recorded piecesI hate everything.
Q: You don't like to revel in your old performances just a little?
A: I was friendly for quite a few years with Danny Kaye, the great actor, comedian, dancer, singer. He loved to cook, and he loved to show his guests his own performances after dinner. Which means you'd be fed first, entertained, and then if you wanted, you could sleep in front of the TV, but you had to look at some of his films. I would never do [something like] that. I'd rather die.
Q: The late critic Clive Barnes from The New York Times once famously described you as "the most perfect dancer I have ever seen."
A: I don't see in myself any perfection. I know when I am on stage and I'm kind of on the right trackhopefully most of the time. But a lot of time I'm not.
A: Of course. Especially when you're in new work all the time, and I'm intent to work on new pieces. This is always a crapshoot, and it's always a gamble. I love that. Although I don't gamble in lifeI've never played pokerI do gamble on stage. I gamble with myself: "Can I do this?"