Mihkhail Baryshnikov – one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time
Mikhail Baryshnikov is a renowned Russian-American ballet dancer and actor. He is considered one of the greatest dancers in the history of ballet.
Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov was born on January 27, 1948, in Riga, Latvia. Latvia was then part of the Soviet Union.
He began his ballet training at the age of 9 at the Vaganova School in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). He studied under the famous ballet teacher Aleksandr Pushkin.
Career in the Soviet Union:
Baryshnikov joined the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky Ballet) in Leningrad in 1966.
His talent quickly gained recognition. Baryshnikov soon rose to the rank of principal dancer.
The Soviet government placed heavy controls over the arts and like all performers in the dance world, he faced restrictions.
These legal limitations were quite serious. They affected the performance of contemporary ballets as well as other aspects of dance. Many dancers – notably some of the best ballerinas and male ballet dancers – chose to escape to the west
Defection to the West:
While on tour with the Kirov Ballet in Canada in 1974, Baryshnikov defected to the West. He sought political asylum and later became a naturalized American citizen.
American Ballet Theatre (ABT): Baryshnikov joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York City, where he continued to establish himself as one of the most exceptional dancers of his generation. The ABT is America’s national ballet company, founded in 1939. It is now one of the largest dance companies world wide and has developed its own style and methods of teaching classical dance.
Mikhail Baryshnikov became Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre in 1980, after Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. Under his leadership, the ABT staged, restaged and refurbished numerous classical ballets. With his leadership, the ABT strengthened and refined the classical tradition.
- Partnerships: Baryshnikov partnered with some of the leading ballerinas of his time, including Natalia Makarova, Gelsey Kirkland, and others. Watch this site for more articles about these famous dancers!
- Artistic Director: He served as the artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre from 1980 to 1989, contributing to the company’s success and introducing innovative works.
- Broadening Repertoire: Baryshnikov expanded his repertoire beyond classical ballet to include contemporary and modern dance, collaborating with choreographers like Twyla Tharp.
- White Oak Dance Project: In the 1990s, Baryshnikov founded the White Oak Dance Project, a touring modern dance company.
- Acting Career: Baryishnikov also pursued an acting career. He appeared in films like “The Turning Point” (1977) and “White Nights” (1985), for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
- Honors and Awards: Baryshnikov has received many awards and honours for his contributions to dance, including the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts.
- Continued Influence: Even though he has retired from full-time dancing, Baryshnikov remained active in the arts and has continued to influence the dance world.
Mikhail Baryshnikov’s career is marked by his extraordinary technical skill, versatility, and artistic expression, making him a legendary figure in the world of ballet.