The Great Male Russian BallerinasBy
Mikhail Baryshnikov was born on the 27th of January in Riga, Latvia. Misha (nickname) began to dance the ballet in 1960 at the age of sixteen. He started formal training in the Vaganova School in St. Petersburg.
In 1967 Mikhail joined the world-famous Mariinsky Ballet (formerly called the Kirov Ballet). The quality of his dancing was quickly recognized, and it inspired several choreographers to produce ballets for him. However, like many dancers in the Soviet Union, Misha longed for more freedom. Although he was technically incredible, the fact that he was extremely short made finding a partner difficult and often limited his choices. Additionally, he wanted to be able to learn and dance some of the more modern ballets, which were virtually unheard of in the Soviet Union. To achieve this desire, Mikhail defected to Canada in 1974 while on tour with the Bolshoi Ballet.
Canada granted Mikhail political asylum, and he decided to stay. He joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and preformed with this company and with the Royal Canadian Ballet before moving to the states. In 1974, Misha joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York.
Mikhail has gone on to become heralded as one of the best male dancers of all time. He has received numerous awards throughout the world for his dancing. He has also been recognized as being a skilled and gifted choreographer. In addition to his incredible dancing, Misha was nominated for an Academy award for his role in the film “The Turning Point”. Today he owns a home in Dominican Republic.
Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev was born on a train, on the 17th of March, 1938. His mother was enroute to Vladivostok. She gave birth to her son while the train was near the city of Irkutsk in Siberia. In 1955, Rudolf enrolled at the prestigious Leningrad Choreography School. He was seventeen and had already been dancing with smaller troupes for a number of years.
After graduating, Nureyev joined the Kirov Ballet (it is now known as The Imperial Russian Ballet) where he quickly rose to the role of a soloist. Although, he was an incredible dancer, he was only permitted to dance once outside of Russia in Vienna. After that trip abroad he was told that he would not be permitted to leave the country again. However, in 1961 the male soloist who was scheduled to go on tour with the company was injured, and Nureyev was permitted to go in his place. Rudolf knew that the KGB was investigating him, and he was terrified. He believed that if he did return to the Soviet Union, he would be imprisoned, so while in Paris Rudolph took the opportunity and defected.
Rudolf’s first appearance with a western company was with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas (the Ballet International in New York). He did not stay long with this company, but rather he moved to Britain where he could be a principal dancer. This role was offered to him by Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of the Royal Ballet. In 1962, he performed on stage with Margot Fonteyn for the first time in the classic ballet Giselle. This pair would dance together for many years and is heralded as one of the best dance couples in the history of the ballet.
One of the things that truly made Nureyev remarkable was his ability to dance both classical and modern ballet. At the time when he was dancing it was rare for a dancer to be able to do both styles equally well. In fact, it was not often that a dancer was trained in both styles.
Nureyev died in 1993. He had been sick with AIDS for a number of years before finally succumbing to the disease. He is buried in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, which is near Paris.