Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Michail Nikolaevič Baryšnikov, nicknamed "Misha", is one of the greatest and most unforgettable dancers of the twentieth century. In fact, it is often mentioned near the name of Rudolf Nureyev. In his career, in addition to being a talented dancer, he has also taken on the role of choreographer and actor. He founded the White Oak Dance Project and the Baryshnikov Arts Center, a creative centre in the heart of Manhattan designed for emerging artists.
Born in Riga, Latvia in 1948, Michail Baryšnikov began studying dance at the age of 11. His father was a Soviet colonel and the two did not get along. As the dancer explained to the New York Times, the parent "was not a very pleasant man". However, Baryshnikov later draws inspiration from his father. "I put his mannerisms, his military habits in my interpretation," says the dancer. At sixteen the life of Michail Baryšnikov is marked by deep pain: he loses his mother for suicide. He began studying classical dance in the same period, in 1963, and trained with the famous choreographer Alexander Pushkin at the Vaganova Choreographic Institute, the prestigious Vaganova Dance Academy. In 1967 he entered the company of the "ballet Kirov" with a role in "Giselle". Soviet choreographers go crazy, they immediately understand the enormous talent, the purity of style and the stage presence, and choreograph the parts specifically for him. New York Times critic Clive Barnes calls him "the most perfect dancer I've ever seen". From Russia, while on tour in Canada with the Kirov company, Baryšnikov then moves to Toronto, joining the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He later moved to the United States of America and became a U.S. citizen in 1976.
From 1976 to 1979 Baryšnikov was principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater, while continuing to perform sporadically with other classical and modern ballet companies. In 1980 he entered the New York City Ballet for a year and a half, where he worked with the choreographer George Balanchine. After this experience he returned to the American Ballet Theater as a dancer and artistic director, a role that he will cover for ten years. From 1990 to 2002 he worked as artistic director of the White Oak Dance Project, a company founded by him and Mark Morris.
From 1976 to 1979 Baryšnikov was a principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater while continuing to perform sporadically with other classical and modern ballet companies. In 1980 he entered the New York City Ballet for a year and a half, where he worked with the choreographer George Balanchine. After this experience, he returned to the American Ballet Theater as a dancer and artistic director, a role that he will cover for ten years. From 1990 to 2002 he worked as artistic director of the White Oak Dance Project, a company founded by him and Mark Morris.ce remember him as Sarah Jessica Parker's latest boyfriend in "Sex and the city", in the sixth season of the hit TV series, where she plays the charismatic Russian artist Petrovsky. In 2005 Mikhail Baryshnikov launched Arts Center in New York City, a creative space designed to support multidisciplinary artists from around the world. Baryshnikov's numerous awards include the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Arts, the Commonwealth Award, the Chubb Fellowship, the Jerome Robbins Award and the Vilcek Award. In 2010 he was awarded the rank of Officer of the French Legion of Honor and in 2017 he received the prestigious international Premium Imperial prize for Japanese arts in the theater.