At 76 years old, Mikhail Baryshnikov has this physical status:
Mikhail Nikolayevich Baryshnikov (Russian: Михаил Николаевич Барышников, IPA: [mʲɪxɐˈil bɐ'rɨʂnʲɪkəf]; Latvian: Mihails Barišņikovs; born January 28, 1948) is a Soviet Latvian-born Russian-American dancer, choreographer, and actor. He was the preeminent male classical dancer of the 1970s and 1980s. He subsequently became a noted dance director.
Born in Riga, Latvian SSR, Baryshnikov had a promising start in the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad before defecting to Canada in 1974 for more opportunities in Western dance. After dancing with American Ballet Theatre, he joined the New York City Ballet as a principal dancer for one season to learn George Balanchine's neoclassical Russian style of movement. He then returned to the American Ballet Theatre, where he later became artistic director. Baryshnikov has spearheaded many of his own artistic projects and has been associated in particular with promoting modern dance, premiering dozens of new works, including many of his own. His success as a dramatic actor on stage, cinema and television has helped him become probably the most widely recognized contemporary ballet dancer. Baryshnikov has never returned to Russia since his 1974 defection and has been a naturalized citizen of the United States since 1986. In 2017, the Republic of Latvia granted Baryshnikov citizenship for extraordinary merits.
In 1977, he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Yuri Kopeikine in the film The Turning Point. He starred in the movie White Nights with Gregory Hines, Helen Mirren, and Isabella Rossellini, and had a recurring role in the last season of the television series Sex and the City.
Mikhail Baryshnikov was born in Riga, then Latvian SSR, Soviet Union, now Latvia. His parents were Russians: Alexandra (a dressmaker; née Kiselyova) and Nikolay Baryshnikov (an engineer). According to Baryshnikov, his father was a strict, nationalist military man, and his mother introduced him to the theatre, opera and ballet. She died by suicide when he was 12.
Baryshnikov has a daughter, Aleksandra "Shura" Baryshnikova (born 1981), from his relationship with actress Jessica Lange. When Baryshnikov and Lange met, he spoke very little English; they communicated in French instead. He eventually learned English by watching television. From 1982 to 1983 he dated Tuesday Weld, Lange's best friend.
Baryshnikov has had a long-term relationship with former ballerina Lisa Rinehart. They had three children together: Peter, Anna (born 1992), and Sofia. He told Larry King in 2002 that he did not "believe in marriage in the conventional way", but he and Rinehart married in 2006.
Baryshnikov endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
On July 3, 1986, Baryshnikov became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Asked whether he felt like an American, he said, "I like to think like I'm a man of the world. I feel totally Parisian in Paris. Totally Parisian. I have my place here, a lot of close friends and collaborators here, whom I can really feel like I can talk serious business with them. Human business, not 'business' business. Paris was always the dream of my childhood. We grew up on French art, like all Russians. America, United States, North America—it's a new country. Of course, if somebody would ask me to choose either Paris or New York, I would choose New York. But spiritually, somehow, I love Europe."
On April 27, 2017, the Republic of Latvia granted Baryshnikov citizenship for extraordinary merits. The application to the Latvian parliament along with a letter from Baryshnikov in which he expressed his wish to become a Latvian citizen was submitted on December 21, 2016. He wrote that the decision was based on memories of his first 16 years living in Latvia, which provided the basis for the rest of his life. "It was there that my exposure to the arts led me to discover my future destiny as a performer. Riga still serves as a place where I find artistic inspiration", Baryshnikov wrote in the letter to the Latvian parliament.
Baryshnikov began his ballet studies in Riga in 1960, at the age of 12. He began in 1964 at Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and entered the Vagganova School. Baryshnikov received the top prize in the Varna International Ballet Competition's junior division shortly. In 1967, he joined the Mariinsky Ballet, later known as the Kirov Ballet, and began performing the "Pesant" pas de deux in Giselle. Many Soviet choreographers, including Oleg Vinogradov, Konstantin Sergeyev, Igor Tchernichov, and Leonid Jakobson, choreographed ballets for him, recognizing Baryshnikov's talent, particularly his stage presence and purity of technique. Baryshnikov performed iconic parts in Jakobson's 1969 virtuosic Vestris as well as an emotionally heightened Albrecht in Giselle. Although he was still in the Soviet Union, New York Times writer Clive Barnes referred to him as "the most flawless dancer I've ever seen."
Baryshnikov's talent was evident from his youth, but because he was 5' 5" (165 cm) or 5' 6" (168 cm) tall, he was forced to settle for secondary roles. The Soviet dance world followed closely to 19th-century roots and specifically shunned Western choreographers, whose Baryshnikov's work appeared in occasional tours and films was more frustrating. His main reason for leaving the Soviet Union was to collaborate with these innovators.
Baryshnikov defected in Toronto on June 29, 1974, while on tour with the Bolshoi, demanding political asylum in Canada. When recalled by John Frazer, a Toronto ballet critic who assisted Baryshnikov in escaping, he wrote down phone numbers of people on a small piece of paper and hid it under his wedding ring. At a banquet after one show, he managed to disarm Baryshnikov, who served as an interpreter, and gave Baryshnikov the newspaper. He joined the National Ballet of Canada for a brief period as a guest artist. He also stated that he would not return to the USSR. Christina Berlin, an American friend's, reportedly aided in his defection during his 1970 tour of London. With the National Ballet of Canada in La Sylphide, he performed in his first television appearance after being out of temporary seclusion in Canada. He then migrated to the United States. In December 1975, he and his dance partner Natalia Makarova appeared prominently in an episode of BBC television series Arena.
He danced for no fewer than 13 choreographers, including Jerome Robbins, Glen Tetley, Alvin Ailey, and Twyla Tharp in the first two years after his defection. "It doesn't matter if every ballet is a success or not," he told New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff in 1976. "The latest experience gives me a lot." When Tharp insisted that eccentric personal gestures in dance, he cited his fascination with the ways Ailey combined classical and modern technology as well as his initial indignation.
Baryshnikov, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), where he collaborated with Gelsey Kirkland from 1974 to 1978.
Baryshnikov resigned as a freelancer in 1978 to spend 18 months as a principal of the New York City Ballet, directed by George Balanchine. As Balanchine was known, visitors were rarely accepted, and no one else wanted to work with both Nureyev and Makarova. Baryshnikov's decision to give his complete attention to the New York company stunned the dance world. Balanchine never created a new piece for Baryshnikov, but he did mentor him in his own unique style, and Baryshnikov's legendary roles such as Apollo, The Proshnikov Son, and Rubies were among his greatest roles as Apollo, The Proshnikov. Jerome Robbins created Opus 19/The Dreamer for Baryshnikov and NYCB favorite Patricia McBride.
Baryshnikov performed with the New York City Ballet as a principal dancer from 1978 to 1979. He made his debut with George Balanchine's and Lincoln Kirstein's firm in Saratoga Springs, 1978, when he was introduced as Franz in Coppélia.
Baryshnikov danced the Poet in Balanchine's ballet La Sonnambula with the City Ballet at the Kennedy Center on October 12, 1979. This was his last appearance with New York City Ballet due to tendinitis and other injuries. His time in Balanchine coincided with a time of ill health that followed a previous heart attack and culminated in successful heart surgery in June 1979. Baryshnikov left the company in September 1980 to become ABT's artistic director and take time off for his injuries.
Baryshnikov returned to the American Ballet Theatre in September 1980 as an artistic director, a position he held until 1989. He has also performed as a dancer with ABT. Baryshnikov has been obsessed with the latest technology. "It doesn't matter how high you lift your leg," he said. The approach is about simplicity, simplicity, and making an earnest attempt." Baryshnikov has worked with ballet and modern dance companies around the world for 15 months. Several roles were created for him, including in Robbins' Opus 19: The Dreamer (1979), Frederick Ashton's Rhapsody (1980), and Robbins' Other Dances with Natalia Makarova.
Baryshnikov was artistic director of the White Oak Dance Project, a touring company he co-founded with Mark Morris from 1990 to 2002. The White Oak Project was established in order to produce original works for senior dancers. He appeared in four short plays directed by JoAnne Akalaitis, just shy of his 60th birthday in 2007.
In 1999, Baryshnikov was selected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, he was named National Medal of Arts.
Baryshnikov was named recipient of the Prix Benois de la Danse in 2003, a lifetime achievement. He founded the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York in 2005. Baryshnikov was on tour with Hell's Kitchen Dance, which was funded by the Baryshnikov Arts Center for the duration of the 2006 summer. The company toured the United States and Brazil, with works by Baryshnikov Arts Center employees Azsure Barton and Benjamin Millepied. He received three honorary degrees: from New York University on May 11, 2006, Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University; and Montclair State University's May 23, 2008. Baryshnikov performed Mats Ek's Place (Ställe) with Ana Laguna at Dansens Hus in Stockholm in late August 2007. He was awarded the Vilcek Prize in Dance in 2012.
Baryshnikov has appeared in Israel three times: in 1996 with the White Oak Dance Project at the Roman theater in Caesarea; in 2010, with Ana Laguna; and in 2011, performing in nine performances of In Paris, a short story by Ivan Bunin at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. He spoke out against cultural boycotts of Israel in a 2011 Haaretz interview, boosting Israel's excitement for modern dance.
- 1966 Varna International Ballet Competition (gold medal, junior division)
- 1969 Moscow International Ballet Competition (gold medal)
- 1969 Nijinsky Prize, Paris Academy of Dance, for performance in Vestris.
- 1977 Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for The Turning Point.
- 1977 Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor, Academy of Foreign Film Press for The Turning Point.
- 1978 Award from Dance magazine.
- 1979 D.F.A. from Yale University.
- 1987 Man of the Year from the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, USA
- 2000 Kennedy Center Honor.
- 2004 Jerome Robbins Prize.
- 2005 National Arts Award.
- 2006 George and Judy Marcus Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
- 2006 Honorary degree from New York University.
- 2007 Honorary degree from Shenandoah University Conservatory.
- 2008 Honorary degree from Montclair State University.
- 2019 Honorary degree from University of Southern California.