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January 28

Mikhail Baryshnikov

Baryshnikov has headed many artistic projects, premiering numerous new ballet and modern dance works, many of which he has helped choreograph.

Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images

1948: Ballet’s Leading Man
Mikhail Baryshnikov is born in Riga, Latvia
Mikhail Baryshnikov is often considered one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century, known for his dynamic stage presence and effortless grasp of classical technique.

In 1974, after professional training and a promising start at the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, he defected from the Soviet Union to seek artistic and personal freedom in the West. Baryshnikov made his Western debut with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) that same year, dancing in the classic ballet Giselle.

He stayed with ABT for four years before moving to the New York City Ballet, where he worked with choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. He returned to ABT in 1980 as principal dancer and artistic director, distinguished positions he held for almost a decade.

Since then, Baryshnikov has dabbled in acting in both film and television. In 2000, he was a Kennedy Center honoree.
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