Mikhail Nikolaevitch Baryshnikov was born on January 27, 1948 in Riga, USSR. He bagan studying ballet
in 1960, at the age of 12. In 1964 he entered the Vaganova School to further his ballet studies. He soon began winning top honors and leading roles in major ballets. Upon seeing him dance in the Soviet Union, Clive Barnes, a New York Times critic, called him the most perfect dancer he had ever seen.
Because the Soviet dance world held fast to 19th century traditions and shunned creativity, Baryshnikov decided to move west. He first defected to Canada, then made his way to the United States. During his first two years away from Russia, he danced for 13 different choreographers.
New York City Ballet:
In 1978, Baryshnikov became a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, under the direction of George Balanchine. His distinctive style won him many leading roles, although Balanchine never created a new work for him. In 1980, he changed his role from performer to director, becoming Artistic Director of the American Ballet Theatre.
Baryshnikov began dancing for American television in 1976. In 1977, CBS brought his production of the Nutcracker
at the American Ballet Theatre to television. The famous production remains the most popular and most often shown television production of the Nutcracker Ballet. The DVD of the performance is a bestseller during the holidays. It is also one of only two versions of "The Nutcracker" to be nominated for an Emmy Award.
He also portrayed a famous Russian ballet dancer in the 1977 film The Turning Point, receiving an Oscar nomination. He later starred in the 1985 film White Nights, and Sex and the City.
Baryshnikov has three children with former ballerina Lisa Rinehart, although they remain unmarried. He also has a daughter from a former relationship with actress Jessica Lange.