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Mikhail Baryshnikov Mikhail Baryshnikov
by The Ovi Team
2018-06-30 08:05:55
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barry0001June 30th 1974; Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected in Toronto, Canada. Mikhail began his ballet studies in his native Riga, Latvia. He was accepted by the Leningrad Choreographic School, the associate school of the Kirov Ballet. One of his instructors there was Alexander Pushkin, who had taught Rudolf Nureyev - who defected in Paris and was already making a name for himself in America. Among Baryshnikov's friends at the school were Alexander Godunov (nicknamed Sasha) and "ballerina assoluta" Natalia Makarova. Misha joined the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and his technique and balletic abilities were so great, he skipped the corps and was immediately put in a soloist position. While Misha was doing quite well in Russia, even finding an audience fanbase, the government and dance seemed to be too limiting and frustrating for him. Like other Russian dancers before him and after him, he would soon defect.



When the Kirov was touring in Canada, Misha defected and then quickly became a member of the National Ballet of Canada. He joined the American Ballet Theatre later on and became one of the company's principal dancers. He and Gelsey Kirkland (of New York City Ballet - whom he met in Russia and asked to partner him) - had a celebrated and legendary partnership. Gelsey had left NYCB to dance with him. Kirkland claimed she saw him dance with the Kirov Ballet before he defected. When she first saw him, his 5' 7"-inch frame and adolescent personality and appearance seemed disappointing and disillusioning. But then he leaped onto the floor and she was blown away. He danced "like a literal moving picture". His grace, his lightness, his movement, his leaps ... she made a judgment there and then. "He was the greatest male dancer on the earth." She fell in love with him - or rather, his dancing. They had a legendary partnership, almost two peas in a pod they were. They danced frequently together. But perhaps their most well-known work was Baryshnikov's version of Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker," which was filmed in Canada and televised, first by CBS, then later by PBS annually for years. Later that year, he also made his film debut in "The Turning Point" (1977)_. He played a tailor-made role as Yuri, a superstar ballet defector from Russia who beds more ballerinas than he dances with. The movie was nominated for 11 Oscars, including one for Misha.


     
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