Illustration by Maria Manhattan
Mikhail Baryshnikov was born on January 27, 1948 in Riga, Latvia where he began studying ballet. As a teenager, the great teacher Alexander Pushkin recognized “Misha’s” extraordinary graceful athleticism. Baryshnikov was invited to join the school of the Kirov Ballet, quickly rising from student to principal dancer. During a Canadian tour in 1974, Baryshnikov disappeared and resurfaced in the United States, where he would find personal and artistic freedom.
Already an international star, he was a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, working with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Then from 1980 until 1989 he became principal dancer and artistic director of American Ballet Theatre. Baryshnikov is considered the most charismatic and spectacular dancer of his generation. He has starred in several films, including The Turning Point (1977), and White Nights (1985), and choreographed versions of The Nutcracker and Don Quixote. He won the National Medal of Arts in 2000. In 2005, he opened The Baryshnikov Arts Center, an international center for multi-disciplinary experimentation and collaboration.