Baryshnikov, Mikhail 1948–

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Baryshnikov, Mikhail 1948–


Born January 27, 1948, in Riga, Latvia, USSR; immigrated to Canada, 1974; immigrated to United States, 1974; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1986; son of Nikolai and Alexandra Baryshnikov; companion of Jessica Lange (an actress), mid-1970s-early 1980s; companion of Lisa Rinehart (a dancer), early 1980s—; children: (with Lange) Aleksandra; (with Rinehart) Sofia, Anna, Peter. Education: Trained in ballet at School of Theatre Opera Ballet (Riga, Latvia); Agrippina Vaganova Choreographic Institute, graduated 1967. Hobbies and other interests: Fishing.


Home and office—New York, NY.


Dancer, choreographer, actor, and author. Kirov Ballet, Leningrad, USSR, soloist, 1969-74; American Ballet Theatre, New York, NY, principal dancer, 1974-78, 1979-90, director designee, 1979-80, artistic director, 1980-89; New York City Ballet, principal dancer, 1978-79; White Oak Dance Project, director and dancer, 1990-2003; Baryshnikov Center for Dance, New York, NY, founder, 2004. Guest artist with numerous groups, including National Ballet of Canada, Royal Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, Ballet Victoria, Stuttgart Ballet, Vienna Opera Ballet, Alvin Ailey Company, Eliot Feld Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Mark Morris Dance Company. Performer in numerous television programs or specials, including The Nutcracker, In Performance at Wolf Trap, Live from Lincoln Center, Baryshnikov at the White House, Baryshnikov on Broadway, Baryshnikov in Hollywood, and Baryshnikov by Tharp. Actor in motion pictures, including The Turning Point, 1977, White Nights, 1987, and Dancers. Choreographer of full-length ballets, including The Nutcracker, 1976, Don Quixote (Kitri's Wedding), 1978, Cinderella, 1984, and Swan Lake, 1989. Performer on stage, including in Forbidden Christmas; or, The Doctor and the Patient, 2004. Co-owner, Russian Samovar (restaurant), New York, NY.


Gold Medal, Varna Dance Competition, 1966; Gold Medal, First International Ballet Competition, 1969, and Nijinsky prize, Paris Academy of Dance, 1969, both for performance in Vestris; Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1977, for The Turning Point; award from Dance magazine, 1978; D.F.A. from Yale University, 1979; Kennedy Center Honor, 2000; Jerome Robbins Prize, 2004; National Arts Award, 2005; George and Judy Marcus Prize for Lifetime Achievement, 2006; honorary degrees from New York University, 2006, Shenandoah University Conservatory, 2007, and Montclair State University, 2008; Commonwealth Award; Chubb fellowship, Yale University.


Baryshnikov at Work: Mikhail Baryshnikov Discusses His Roles, photographs by Martha Swope, edited by Charles Engell France, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1976.

(Author of introduction and commentary) Baryshnikov in Color, edited by Charles Engell France, Harry Abrams (New York, NY), 1980.

Peter Anastos, The Swan Prince: A Fairy Tale, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1987.

(Author of foreword) Reinventing Dance in the 1960s: Everything Was Possible, edited by Sally Banes, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2003.

(With Vladimir Radunsky) Because …, illustrated by Radunsky, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2007.


Mikhail Baryshnikov is widely hailed as one of ballet's greatest performers of all time. Born in 1948 in the former Soviet Union, he began dance studies at age nine and became a principal dancer for the prestigious Kirov Ballet in 1969. Because he had a stellar career in the communist USSR, Baryshnikov was given many comforts not available to most Soviets, and he toured widely outside the country before defecting to the West in the mid-1970s. North American critics found in the Soviet dancer an unequaled combination of acting and athletic talents. Unlike most dancers, Baryshnikov's dramatic expressions on stage were hailed as utterly convincing and stirring, while his technical capabilities—including his extraordinary leaping capacity—continue to be unmatched. As a dancer as well as an artistic director, Baryshnikov has continued to push for innovation in the dance by promoting performance opportunities for younger dancers, injecting minimalism and improvisation into his performances, and cofounding the White Oak Dance Company with choreographer Mark Morris.

In addition to his successes on stage (he has danced over one hundred different works during his long career), Baryshnikov has also acted in several films, and his public appearances have made him well known as a celebrity. In 2007 he shared his love of the dance and his belief in life's possibilities in the pages of Because …, a picture book featuring illustrations by coauthor Vladimir Radunsky. In the book, a young red-haired narrator describes what it is like to spend each day with his quirky grandmother. The agility and grace of the stout woman, as well as her obvious zest for life as she leaps, spins, cartwheels, and prances through the week, cause the boy embarrassment. Her activities also prompt others to question how she can sustain such energy, and her answer to such questions is always that she is a dancer. Praising the "buoyant" illustrations created by Radunsky, Jennifer Mattson added in Booklist that "young readers will respond to [the book's] … worthwhile, inclusive message about joy in physical movement." In School Library Journal Suzanne Myers Harold dubbed Because … "a playful book about being true to oneself regardless of how others react," and in Publishers Weekly a critic cited the author's "casual text" as positive and inspiring. "Radunsky's trademark offbeat artistry makes him a perfect partner in this charming pas de deux," concluded a Kirkus Reviews critic of Baryshnikov's picture-book debut.



Alovert, Nina, Baryshnikov in Russia, translated by Irene Huntoon, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1984.

Aria, Barbara, Misha: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Story, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Glassman, Bruce, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1990.

Goodman, Saul, Baryshnikov: A Most Spectacular Dancer, Harvey House (New York, NY), 1979.

Klein, Norma, Baryshnikov's Nutcracker, Putnam (New York, NY), 1983.

Smakov, Gennady, Baryshnikov: From Russia to the West, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1981.


Dance, March, 1994, Hilary Ostlere, profile of Baryshnikov, p. 38; May, 1998, Hilary Ostlere, interview with Baryshnikov, p. 44.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2007, review of Because…. New Yorker, January 19, 1998, Joan Acocella, "The Soloist," p. 44.

Publishers Weekly, April 2, 2007, review of Because …, p. 55.

School Library Journal, May, 2007, Suzanne Myers Harold, review of Because …, p. 84.


White Oak Dance Project Web site, (August 15, 2008).