Best Known For
Mikhail Baryshnikov is a Russian-American ballet dancer who choreographed several iconic pieces which have made him one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Mikhail Baryshnikov was born in Latvia in 1948. An experienced and respected ballet dancer in the Soviet Union during the 1960s, Baryshnikov was a beloved part of his nation. Unfortunately, the feelings weren't mutual at the time. He defected from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1974 in hopes of having a better opportunity to express himself creatively. His technique transcended any cultural barriers he experienced through immigrating,
"Be yourself and dance with your mind and your body, the way it is right now."
"Working is living to me."
"I hate authority. I like to make my own mistakes."
"I am individualist and there it is a crime."
"[My father's] mannerisms, his military habits, I put them in my interpretation."
as Americans loved his precision and grace as a ballet dancer just as the Soviets did. Baryshnikov worked with the American Ballet Theatre until 1978 before becoming its artistic director in the '80s.
Born in Riga, Latvia, on January 27, 1948, Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov went on to become one of the leading dancers of the 20th century. Baryshnikov's early years were difficult. His father was a Soviet colonel, and the two didn't get along. As he explained to The New York Times, his father "was not a very pleasant man." However, Baryshnikov later drew inspiration from his father. "His mannerisms, his military habits, I put them in my interpretation," the dancer once said.
In his early teens, Baryshnikov lost his mother to suicide. He began studying ballet around this same time, and in 1963, at the age of 16, began training with distinguished choreographer Alexander Pushkin at the Vaganova Choreographic Institute.
In 1967, Baryshnikov made his stage debut with the Kirov Ballet in Giselle, later starring as the dance company's premier danseur noble in Gorianka (1968) and Vestris (1969). Choreographer Leonid Jakobson is said to have tailored Vestris to suit Baryshnikov specifically. The work is now considered to be one of the dancer's signature pieces. Baryshnikov landed his first major honor in 1966, winning a gold medal at the Varna, Bulgaria, dance competition, and went on to win another gold medal at the First International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1969.
Dazzling audiences with his astounding physical and technical skills as well as his emotional expressiveness, Baryshnikov's fame quickly grew. By the late 1960s, he was one of the Soviet Union's leading ballet dancers.
Despite his fame, Mikhail Baryshnikov soon grew tired of the stifling atmosphere in communist Russia, and in 1974—following a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet in Toronto—defected from the Soviet Union to the West in search of greater personal and creative freedom. He later explained his departure from his native country to the New Statesman, saying, "I am individualist and there it is a crime."
In the United States, Baryshnikov joined the American Ballet Theatre, where he appeared in numerous productions. Audiences turned out in droves to see "his flawless, seemingly effortless classical technique and the extraordinary airborne maneuvers he executed with such zest and precision," as Laura Shapiro wrote in Newsweek.
Outside of ballet, Baryshnikov explored other professional opportunities.
profile name: Mikhail Baryshnikov profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
Studio 54 Patrons 49 people in this group
Famous Defectors 5 people in this group
Dance pioneers like Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly—remembered for his groundbreaking performance in 1952's Singin' in the Rain—truly set the stage for Hollywood's dance-film genre. John Travolta, Jennifer Beals, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey and Natalie Portman are some of the performers who took up where Astaire, Rogers and Kelly left off, repopularizing dance on film for later generations. Biography.com's Famous Movie Dancers group examines the lives and careers of these high-stepping performers who will always be remembered for their unforgettable moves.
Famous Movie Dancers 16 people in this group