PRIMER: Mikhail Baryshnikov

April 9th, 2012, by

Photo by Annie Leibovitz

Airdates | Tuesday, April 10 and Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hometown | Riga, Latvia

Parents | Alexandra and Nicholai Baryshnikov

Why You (Should) Know Him

  • Often cited as one of the greatest ballet dancers in history
  • Partnered with Gelsey Kirkland, a well-known American ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, he was the principal dancer from 1974 – 1978
  • His performance in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker was broadcast by CBS in 1977. It is arguably one of the most popular and most shown television productions of the ballet and is often broadcast on PBS stations.
  • Appeared in print ads for Robert Mondavi Wines, Movado timepieces and Louis Vuitton (see below)

Why He’s Buzzing | From April 11-21, 2012, he will star in Dmitry Krymov’s new play In Paris. The production will be presented in the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center.

Mikhail Baryshnikov Trivia

  • When he joined the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad (which is now St. Petersburg) his level of technique and ballet abilities were so great that he was immediately placed in a soloist position, according to his IMDB profile.
  • Although he was successful in Russia, in 1974 Misha defected to Canada in search of more opportunities in western dance.
  • According to his IMDB profile, Gelsey Kirkland’s first impression of him was not agreeable. She was disappointed by his 5’7″ frame. But when she saw him dance, she reportedly said he was “like a literal moving picture” and “was the greatest male dancer on earth.”
  • In 1999, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000.
  • He holds three Honorary Degrees—one each from New York University, Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University and Montclair State University
  • From 1980-1990, he was the artistic director of the famed American Ballet Theatre.
  • By 2005, he opened the Baryshnikov Arts Center.
  • He has his own clothing line, Baryshnikov, and his own perfume brand, Misha, as noted in his IMDB profile.

Selection of performances and projects


1975 Awakening – American Ballet Theatre’s Broadway production
1975 Romeo and Juliet – Royal Ballet production at the Royal Opera House in Convent Garden in London, England
1975 Swan Lake – Royal Ballet production at the Royal Opera House in London, England
1989 Metamorphosis – Broadway production (nominated for a Tony and a Drama Critics Award)


1977 The Turning Point – Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and also nominated for a Golden Globe
1985 White Nights
1987 Dancers
1991 Company Business
1991 The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez


1977 The Nutcracker (TV movie)
1979 Great Performances: Dance in America (Episode “Choreography by Balanchine: Part IV”)
1984 Don Quixote (Kitri’s Wedding), a Ballet in Three Acts (TV movie)
1987 Great Performances: Dance in America (Episode “David Gordon’s ‘Made in U.S.A.'”)
2004 Sex and the City (as Aleksandr Petrovsky)
2006 Iconoclasts (as Himself)
2007 News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS (as Himself)
2008 Imagine (Episode “Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens”)

Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Louis Vuitton (2010)


Last modified: April 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm