Ballet dancer

How famous ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov became popular

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Perhaps the most famous ballet in popular culture is, arguably, Nutcracker. Many families are flocking to local community centers to watch their children perform in delightful amateur productions over the holidays. And if you can’t catch a live show, there are plenty of filmed productions you can find online and on TV. Among these is a Emmy Awards-Nominated film of the 1977 American Ballet Theater production featuring the famous ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. This spectacular artefact of 1970s style and filmmaking offers any first-time ballet dancer a great starting point to explore the career of the former first Soviet ballet dancer.

A legendary dancer is born

Mikhail “Misha” Baryshnikov was born on January 28, 1948 in Riga, Latvia, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union (USSR). He began his training in classical ballet at a young age, and soon found himself learning from the masters of the Vaganova Ballet School. Upon graduating from this iconic dance program, he was hired as the lead ballet dancer for the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, Russia. The company toured the Soviet Union and ventured outside the Communist bloc to Western theaters around the world. Already acclaimed for his precise technique, Baryshnikov began planning to leave the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. The timing came during the final performances of the Kirov Ballet Company’s Canadian tour in 1974.

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The main defects of the ballet dancer

“When I was in Toronto, I finally decided that if I passed up the opportunity to expand my art out West, it would always haunt me,” entrust the dancer in a post-defection interview. Unfortunately, defection from the USSR was considered a crime by the Soviet government, and if caught, a would-be defector and their family could suffer serious, sometimes fatal repercussions. Baryshnikov details the escape of KGB managers in a interview with People magazine.

“It was secretly arranged by friends. I ran, the getaway car was waiting a few blocks away as we boarded the group bus. The KGB was watching us. It was really funny. The fans are waiting for me outside the stage door, and I get out and start running, and they start running after me for an autograph. They were laughing, I was running for my life. It was a very moving moment, I tell you.

No matter how terrifying the escape was, the potential for collaborating with the best choreographers and dance companies in the West was all too enticing. Fortunately, the Soviet dancer got asylum by the Canadian government shortly after his escape and he soon made his way to the United States, joining the American Ballet Theater in 1974 then the New York City Ballet in 1978.

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Baryshnikov jumps into American hearts

In 1980, Mikhail Baryshnikov starred in a big movie –Turning (1977) – and was nominated for a Academy Award and Golden Globe for his performance, had completed several incredible seasons with some of the best dance companies in the United States and became artistic director of the American Ballet Theater. At the time, he was heralded as the most famous ballet dancer in the world, and his lack of ego continued to endear him to American audiences. Ultimately, the former Soviet ballet dancer was most at home in the arts and knew his contributions would not end with his ballet performances.

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He continued to show off his acting and dancing skills in films like sleepless night (1985), where he collaborated with the iconic tap dancer Gregory Hinesand It’s dancing! (1985), which was choreographed by the famous Twyla Tharp. Returning to the stage in a different way, he performed in an adaptation of Metamorphosis in 1989 and was nominated for a Tony Award. Not slowing his momentum yet, he began the White Oak Dance Project in 1990, which sought to broaden the scope of american modern danceand the Baryshnikov Art Center in 2005, which continues to aim to integrate a wide range of artistic disciplines under one roof.

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The legacy of the Renaissance man

Despite its long and successful dance history, sex and the city fans may know Baryshnikov best for his portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw’s Russian lover in the show’s final season. This association does not disappoint the Renaissance man at all, because deep down he feels proud to know that the world appreciates him at his best, when he performs. And according to an interview with vanity loungeyouhe 72-year-old appears to have no intention of retiring anytime soon. “I mean life is still ahead of me, I hope,” he says. “You don’t know how long this will last. That’s why I use it at full speed. Looking back, there’s a lot of depressing stuff, a lot of tragic stuff, a lot of really funny stuff. This mixture is what life is.

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