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Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov is considered among the greatest ballet dancers of our time, perfecting the art form insofar as any art form can be perfected. Although, as he’s quick to point out, perfectionism in itself is not what he strives for. “Perfection it’s a theory, you know, you cannot be a perfect human being, and you cannot be a perfect artist, you cannot be a perfect husband, you cannot be a perfect father,” he says. “All you have is that hope that, as you go through your daily routine, by the end of the day you will be a little better in all respects, and do something meaningful, rather than have a day which just passed by senselessly, you know, just like ‘poof’ disappearing in fog of life.”

Baryshnikov, affectionately called Misha by family and friends, clearly remembers the moment he fell in love with dance, the moment from which each day would be imbued with meaning. He was just five years old or thereabouts, living in the Soviet-occupied town of Riga, in present-day Latvia. His mother, Alexandra, a dressmaker obsessed with the arts, took him to see a ballet. “The curtain was up and people were dancing, and it was beautiful, light, and lovely music. And I was hooked. I asked her a few days later, ‘can she take me again to see some dance?’ And the journey began.”

When he was nine, he began his life as a performer. He was shorter than most male dancers, but his exceptional talent carried him all the way to the elite Kirov Ballet in Leningrad. His interest in avant garde choreography, however, was not encouraged within the traditional Soviet system. In 1974, he defected to Canada, eventually joining the New York City Ballet as a principal dancer. “New York is an extraordinary place, you know, in all respects. In the 70s and early 80s in New York, the city was more generous and more welcoming to young people. You could live in Manhattan, and you could afford to go to the theater, and Broadway, and ballet, and opera, and the philharmonic; and it’s almost impossible right now for young people from, you know, Beaumont, Texas, to come and spend, their summer in New York. Or, God forbid, a year, and try to find their luck, because it will cost you, if you’re not the kid of rich parents, and it’s impossible.”




Embraced by the West, Baryshnikov explored his talent for acting, earning an Oscar nomination in 1997 for his role in “The Turning Point”. Later, he starred with Gregory Hines in “White Nights” and Gene Hackman in “Company Business.” Fans of “Sex and the City” will remember him as Aleksandr Petrovsky, Carrie Bradshaw’s artist beau, in the final season of the hit show. As beloved as he is by Hollywood, decades since moving to the US, he is and truly remains a New Yorker at heart. Through his arts foundation, BAC, he’s doing his bit to help young artists who want to live and work in New York, despite the prohibitive nature of the cost of living now. “I want to help the emerging talent to find their place. I’m always like, ‘we are not producers, we are providers, trying to provide opportunity to any kind of creative people to help them to produce their work in the most pleasurable way, without any commercial pressure.’”

On par with his philanthropic work, he remains incessantly active as a stage performer. He recently he appeared in “Beckett Shorts,” a compilation of four short Samuel Beckett plays, and “In Paris,” based on a short story by writer Ivan Bunin. Later this year, he will perform opposite Willem Dafoe in an adaptation of “The Old Woman” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His creative restlessness is, he says, perhaps a result of the great freedom he enjoys as an artist. “I do rest sometimes, but it’s always a short rest, you know? I am blessed with the ability to do what I want to do in my life. I don’t restrict it myself with my financial goals. I don’t have to climb up, to prove to anybody, nothing like that. I can just be myself. Perhaps I’m afraid to get bored with myself.”

Read more on Mikhail Baryshnikov’s participation in Citizens of Humanity’s “Just Like You” philanthropic film series: http://www.citizensofhumanity.com/justlikeyou/mikhail-baryshnikov






Take Grace Kelly, mix in a little Annie Hall, add some pixie dust & a bit of British je ne sais quoi …

SIUDY GARRIDO - Humanity Magazine

“She had a lot of difficulty from the start just because of where she comes from.”