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Mikhail Baryshnikov ( 1948 - )  Category ( Dancers ) [suggest a correction]

Mikhail Nikolaevich BaryshnikovConsidered by many to be the greatest ballet dancer of the twentieth century, Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov was born to Russian parents in Riga, Latvia on January 28,1948. Displaying a gift for movement and dance at a very early age, at age twelve he was accepted to the renowned Vaganova School in Leningrad. Under the tutelage of his mentor, Alexander Pushkin, young Baryshnikov excelled as a student, soon winning the top prize in the junior division of the International Varna Competition. In 1967, at age nineteen, he debuted with the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad (Now Saint Petersburg). Renowned for his classical technique, stage presence and interpretive skills, he quickly rose through the ranks to be a principal dancer in the company. Always possessing a keen interest in creativity and more modern types of dance, he began to resent the stifling, rigid rules of Soviet ballet.

In 1974, while on tour with the Kirov in Canada, Baryshnikov defected. According to statements he made later, he had planned to seek political asylum for several years. He defected for reasons having to do with creative freedom and not as a rejection of his homeland and culture. While still in the Soviet Union, he heard about several innovative choreographers in the West, but knew he would never be able to work with them in the Soviet Union.

Following his defection, in 1974 he was principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. He briefly left to work with the New York City Ballet, which was under the direction of George Balanchine. Choreographers created a number of roles for Baryshnikov, which are still danced today by other ballet dancers. During the 1970s and 1980s Baryshnikov was almost single-handedly responsible for reviving popular interest in ballet in the United States. He toured worldwide with the ABT during those years, and from 1980-1989 he served as both dancer and artistic director of the ABT. He attained U.S. citizenship in 1986. Upon leaving the ABT in 1989, Baryshnikov, along with modern dance choreographer Mark Morris, co-founded the White Oak Dance Project. The modern and post-modern dance company toured for more than a decade, with Baryshnikov as artistic director and dancer. Since then he has conducted solo tours and toured with the Hells Kitchen Dance company. His latest contribution to dance is the Baryshnikov Arts Centre in New York City. The Centre is dedicated to encouraging the creative arts and providing a creative home for rising artists, musicians, and dancers.

Over the years Baryshnikov has expanded his creative interests beyond those of dance. He starred in several Hollywood films during the late 1970s and 1980s, and was Oscar-nominated for his role in the 1977 film, The Turning Point. He starred in a number of television productions, in a Broadway production of Metamorphasis, and in the avant-garde film The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez. In 2000 he was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor for his contributions to dance. He is also a creative photographer and has held several showings of his work since 2004. During the 1990s he had a line of cologne and ballet attire. He is the author of several books chronicling his dance career, and has contributed to the preservation of Soviet animation.

Baryshnikov is the father of four children, one daughter with actress Jessica Lange, and two daughters and a son with former ballerina and dance critic Lisa Rinehart.

Image: Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov at a press conference in Madrid to introduce his show "An Evening of Dance" on January 9, 2007. Photograph by Nando Rivero [].

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