Mikhail Baryshnikov is often mentioned in the same breath as other great ballet dancers such as Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Vladimir Vasiliey. Born in Riga, Latvia in 1948 while it was still under the control of the Soviet Union, he danced for the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, and won accolades. Yearning for creative freedom, he broke free to the West in 1974 and found a home at the American Ballet Theater, and later the New York City Ballet, where he danced under the tutelage of Jerome Robbins and fellow Russian titan, George Balanchine (1904 – 1983).
In the 1980s, Baryshnikov became the artistic director of the American Ballet Theater and established an innovative program, reworking and re-staging classical ballets with star turns from the doyen of modern ballet, Martha Graham, before starting the White Oak Dance Project, a modern dance group. He also moved into other disciplines over the course of his career, including theatre and film acting. But Baryshnikov is best remembered as the young stallion took on the world dance stage with the finesse and precision of classical techniques and invigorated it with the energy of modern dance.
Alessandra Ferri and Mikhail Baryshnikov – Last dance of Giselle and Albrech, performed at the Metropolitan Opera House, May 1986.