Mikhail Baryshnikov, 2017
Mikhail Nikolayevich Baryshnikov
January 27, 1948
|Citizenship||Latvian & American|
|Height||1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)|
Lisa Rinehart (m. 2006)
|Jessica Lange (1976-82)|
|Children||4 (including Shura and Anna)|
Mikhail Nikolayevich Baryshnikov (Russian: ? , IPA: [mx?'il b?r'nk?f]; Latvian: Mihails Bariikovs; born January 27, 1948), nicknamed "Misha" (Russian diminutive of the name "Mikhail"), is a Soviet-Latvian-born Russian and American dancer, choreographer, and actor. He is often cited alongside Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Vladimir Vasiliev as one of the greatest male ballet dancers in history.
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 freelancing with many companies, he joined the New York City Ballet as a principal dancer to learn George Balanchine's style of movement. He then danced with 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. Since his defection from the Soviet Union in 1974, Baryshnikov has never returned to Russia.
In 1977, he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe nomination for his work as "Yuri Kopeikine" in the film The Turning Point. He also had a significant role in the last season of the television series Sex and the City and starred in the movie White Nights with Gregory Hines, Helen Mirren, and Isabella Rossellini.
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 was the one who introduced him to the theater, opera and ballet. She committed suicide when he was 12.
He began his ballet studies in Riga in 1960, at the age of 11. In 1964, he entered the Vaganova School, in what was then in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Baryshnikov soon won the top prize in the junior division of the Varna International Ballet Competition. He joined the Mariinsky Ballet, which was then called the Kirov Ballet, in 1967, dancing the "Peasant" pas de deux in Giselle. Recognizing Baryshnikov's talent, in particular the strength of his stage presence and purity of his classical technique, several Soviet choreographers, including Oleg Vinogradov, Konstantin Sergeyev, Igor Tchernichov, and Leonid Jakobson, choreographed ballets for him. Baryshnikov made signature roles of Jakobson's 1969 virtuosic Vestris along with an intensely emotional Albrecht in Giselle. While still in the Soviet Union, he was called by New York Times critic Clive Barnes "the most perfect dancer I have ever seen."
Baryshnikov's talent was obvious from his youth, but being 5 ft 5in (165 cm) tall, maybe 5 ft 6in (168 cm), thus, shorter than most dancers, he could not tower over a ballerina en pointe and was therefore relegated to secondary parts. More frustrating to him, the Soviet dance world hewed closely to 19th-century traditions and deliberately shunned the creative choreographers of the West, whose work Baryshnikov glimpsed in occasional tours and films. Baryshnikov's main goal in leaving the Soviet Union was to work with these innovators.
On June 29, 1974, while on tour in Canada with the Mariinsky Ballet, Baryshnikov defected, requesting political asylum in Toronto, and joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He also announced to the dance world that he would not go back to the USSR. He later stated that Christina Berlin, an American friend, helped engineer his defection during his 1970 tour of London. His first televised performance after coming out of temporary seclusion in Canada was with the National Ballet of Canada in La Sylphide. He then went on to the United States. In December 1975, he and his dance partner Natalia Makarova featured prominently in an episode of the BBC television series Arena.
In the first two years after his defection, he danced for no fewer than 13 different choreographers, including Jerome Robbins, Glen Tetley, Alvin Ailey, and Twyla Tharp. "It doesn't matter if every ballet is a success or not," he told New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff in 1976, "The new experience gives me a lot." He cited his fascination with the ways Ailey mixed classical and modern technique and his initial discomfort when Tharp insisted he incorporate eccentric personal gestures in the dance.
In 1978, he abandoned his freelance career to spend 18 months as a principal of the New York City Ballet, run by the legendary George Balanchine. "Mr. B," as Balanchine was known, rarely welcomed guest artists and had refused to work with both Nureyev and Makarova. Baryshnikov's decision to devote his full attentions to the New York company stunned the dance world. Balanchine never created a new work for Baryshnikov, though he did coach the young dancer in his distinctive style, and Baryshnikov triumphed in such signature roles as Apollo, The Prodigal Son, and Rubies. Jerome Robbins did, however, create Opus 19/The Dreamer for Baryshnikov and NYCB favorite Patricia McBride.
Baryshnikov performed with the New York City Ballet as a principal dancer for 15 months from 1978 to 1979. On July 8, 1978, he made his debut with George Balanchine's and Lincoln Kirstein's company at Saratoga Springs, appearing as Franz in Coppélia.
On October 12, 1979, he danced the role of the Poet in Balanchine's ballet, "La Sonnambula" with the City Ballet at the Kennedy Center in Washington. This was Baryshnikov's last performance with New York City Ballet due to a tendinitis and other injuries. His tenure there coincided with a period of ill health for Mr. Balanchine that followed an earlier heart attack and culminated in successful heart surgery in June 1979. Baryshnikov left the company to become the artistic director of American Ballet Theater in September 1980, 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 also performed as a dancer with ABT. Baryshnikov's fascination with the new has stood him in good stead. As he observed, "It doesn't matter how high you lift your leg. The technique is about transparency, simplicity and making an earnest attempt." Baryshnikov also toured with ballet and modern dance companies around the world for fifteen months. Several roles were created for him, including roles in Opus 19: The Dreamer (1979), by Jerome Robbins, Rhapsody (1980), by Frederick Ashton, and Other Dances with Natalia Makarova by Jerome Robbins.
|Baryshnikov dancing Pergolesi as choreographed for him by Twyla Tharp while touring with the White Oak Dance Project in 1995|
From 1990 to 2002, Baryshnikov was artistic director of the White Oak Dance Project, a touring company he co-founded with Mark Morris. The White Oak Project was formed to create original work for older dancers. In a run ending just short of his 60th birthday in 2007, he appeared in a production of four short plays by Samuel Beckett staged by avant-garde director JoAnne Akalaitis.
In 2003, he won the Prix Benois de la Danse for lifetime achievement.
In 2005 he launched the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. For the duration of the 2006 Summer, Baryshnikov went on tour with Hell's Kitchen Dance, which was sponsored by the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Featuring works by Baryshnikov Arts Center residents Azsure Barton and Benjamin Millepied, the company toured the United States and Brazil. He has received three Honorary Degrees: on May 11, 2006, from New York University; on September 28, 2007, from Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University; and on May 23, 2008, from Montclair State University. In late August 2007, Baryshnikov performed Mats Ek's Place (original Swedish title, Ställe) with Ana Laguna at Dansens Hus in Stockholm. In 2012, Baryshnikov received the Vilcek Prize in Dance.
Baryshnikov has performed in Israel three times: in 1996, when he appeared with the White Oak Dance Project at the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea; in 2010, when he performed with Ana Laguna; and in 2011, when he starred in nine performances of "In Paris" at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. In an interview to Haaretz newspaper in 2011, he expressed his opposition to artistic boycotts of Israel and described the enthusiasm of Israeli contemporary dance as astounding.
During the Christmas season of 1977, CBS brought his highly acclaimed American Ballet Theatre production of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet The Nutcracker to television, with Baryshnikov starring in the title role, accompanied by American Ballet Theatre performers including Gelsey Kirkland and Alexander Minz.
Although Tchaikovsky's ballet has been presented on TV many times in many different versions, the Baryshnikov version is one of only two to be nominated for an Emmy Award.
Baryshnikov also performed in two Emmy-winning television specials, one on ABC and one on CBS, in which he danced to music from Broadway and Hollywood, respectively. During the 1970s and 1980s, he appeared many times with American Ballet Theatre on Live from Lincoln Center and Great Performances. Over the years, he has also appeared on several telecasts of the Kennedy Center Honors.
Baryshnikov performed in his first film role soon after arriving in New York. He portrayed the character Yuri Kopeikine, a famous Russian womanizing ballet dancer, in the 1977 film The Turning Point, for which he received an Oscar nomination. He co-starred with Gregory Hines and Isabella Rossellini in the 1985 film White Nights, choreographed by Twyla Tharp; and he was featured in the 1987 film Dancers. On television, in the last season of Sex and the City, he played a Russian artist, Aleksandr Petrovsky, who woos Carrie Bradshaw relentlessly and takes her to Paris. He co-starred in Company Business (1991) with Gene Hackman.
On November 2, 2006, Baryshnikov and chef Alice Waters were featured on an episode of the Sundance Channel's original series Iconoclasts. The two have a long friendship. They discussed their lifestyles, sources of inspiration, and social projects that make them unique. During the program, Alice Waters visited Baryshnikov's Arts Center in New York City. The Hell's Kitchen Dance tour brought him to Berkeley to visit Alice Waters' restaurant Chez Panisse. On July 17, 2007, the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer featured a profile of Baryshnikov and his Arts Center. Baryshnikov appears, uncredited, in the 2014 film Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as Interior Minister Sorokin.
Baryshnikov is a performer in avant-garde theater. His breakthrough performance in Broadway was back in 1989 when he played Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis, an adaption of Franz Kafka's novel by the same name. His debut earned him a Tony nomination.
In 2004, he appeared in Forbidden Christmas or The Doctor And The Patient at New York City's Lincoln Center, and in 2007 in Beckett Shorts at New York Theatre Workshop.
On April 11-21, 2012, Baryshnikov starred in a new play directed by Dmitry Krymov, titled In Paris. The play was presented in the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, at the Broad Stage. His co-star was Anna Sinyakina.
He then appeared in the stage adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Man in a Case. As he said:
I grew up reading Chekhov's stories and plays. I have wanted to explore a Chekhov story for the stage for some time and I'm delighted to bring Man in a Case to Berkeley Rep. Both tales are about solitary men and their self-imposed restrictions. We know very little about the character in the first story, 'Man in a Case,' except that he teaches classical Greek and he's kind of eccentric and conservative. But then something happens to him that is unexpected. The second story, 'About Love,' provides an arresting contrast to the first work. At their core both stories are about love. And I think it's a romantic show in many respects that is perfect for Berkeley Rep's audience.-- Mikhail Baryshnikov.
On April 21, 2015, The New York Times reported that Baryshnikov was scheduled to perform a reading of the Nobel Laureate poet Joseph Brodsky in Riga in 2015. The performance was called "Brodsky/Baryshnikov," was performed in the original Russian, and had its premiere on October 15, 2015. Its international tour began in Tel Aviv in January 2016 and it was later staged in New York City in March 2016, still in the original Russian. (Baryshnikov met Brodsky in 1974, soon after the poet had been forced by the Soviet authorities to leave his home country and had moved to the United States. They remained friends until Brodsky's death in 1996.)
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.
Baryshnikov has had a long-term relationship with former ballerina Lisa Rinehart. They had three children together: Peter (born July 7, 1989), Anna (born May 22, 1992), and Sofia (born May 24, 1994). Though he told Larry King in 2002 that he did not "believe in marriage in the conventional way", he and Rinehart married in 2006.
On July 3, 1986, Baryshnikov became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Asked if he feels 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, Baryshnikov was granted citizenship by the Republic of Latvia for extraordinary merits. The application to the Latvian parliament along with a letter from Baryshnikov in which he expressed his wish to become a citizen of what today constitutes his native country was submitted on December 21, 2016. He stated 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.
Also appeared in "Prodigal Son," "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux," and "Other Dances," all Dance in America, PBS; Baryshnikov: The Dancer and the Dance, PBS; and Carmen, on French television.
Television artistic director