Mikhail Nikolaevitch Baryshnikov

Mikhail Nikolaevitch Baryshnikov
06 December 2016

I would like to present you one of the most famous person that was born in Riga. Mikhail Nikolaevitch Baryshnikov was a dance virtuoso and even known by non-balletomanes. He is a living legend and some people call him the greatest male dancer of the 20th century.

Baryshnikov was born on January 28th in 1948. His early years were difficult. At a very young age he lost his mother to suicide and he didn’t get along well with his father, a Soviet colonel. Baryshnikov began his ballet studies in Riga. At the age of 16 he began training with the distinguished choreographer Alexander Pushkin at the Vaganova Choreographic Institute. Later he joined the the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg. His technique and balletic abilities we so impressive – strong as a bull, but as graceful as a gazelle or swan – that he was immediately put in a soloist position.

The young talent with the nickname Misha was an experienced and beloved ballet dancer in the Soviet Union during the 1960s. However, the situation in Russia seemed to be too limiting and frustrating for him. In 1974, when he was touring in Canada with the Kirov Ballet, he defected and became a member of the National Ballet of Canada. Later on, he joined the American Ballet Theatre as one of the company’s principal dancers. During this time he was reintroduced to Gelsey Kirkland of New York City Ballet, whom he had previously met in Russia. They became partners, both on the stage and in real life. The celebrated partnership went on to become legendary, with their most well-known work being Baryshnikov’s version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker”. In 1977, Baryshnikov made his film debut in “Am Wendepunkt”. He played a superstar ballet defector, a role written especially for him. The movie was nominated for 11 Oscars. In 1979 and 1980, Baryshnikov won two Emmy Awards for television dance specials. In the year 2000 he received a lifetime of achievement award at the Kennedy Center Honor Awards.

The father of four children never stepped away from performing. He made a memorable guest appearance in “Sex and the City” as a Russian artist and the love interest of Sarah Jessica Parker in 2003. Despite knee troubles, Baryshnikov continued to dance into his 60s. Here are some of his famous quotes:

“I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to to dance better than myself.”

“Oh, that’s nonsense. Sex symbol? A cup of tea will do it. Sex is overrated. Absolutely. Forget about it. A good golf game, a nice conversation with friends, will do better.” – On what it is like to be an international sex symbol.

“The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.”


Matthias Thöny, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz in Riga

Posted by Matthias Thoeny

My name is Matthias Thoeny and I am from Switzerland. I am studying Business Administration at the University of St. Gallen. My mother tongue is German. I started learning Russian three years ago at university and continued self-studying. Last summer I already spent 7 weeks at Liden & Denz in St. Petersburg and I really enjoyed my stay in this beautiful environment. I started my Internship at Liden & Denz in Moscow in September and now I am working in St. Petersburg. I hope you enjoy reading my blog articles.

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