Mikhail Nikolaevitch Baryshnikov was born on January 27, 1948 in Riga, USSR. He began 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.
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.
“I cannot give myself credit as a choreographer, but there’s more of my input than when I usually work with choreographers,”
“I don’t put any goals in front of me. (…) That’s why I’m trying to keep horizons open, so I can breathe much better.”
Most of these pictures are taken by Annie Leibovitz.