No one is born a dancer. You have to want it more than anything.
Living overseas, not once, not twice, not thrice, did I hear the names of Maya Plisetskaya and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And every single time my heart manages to inflate with pride. Pride because our ballet is recognized all over the world. Pride because our dancers are legends, true legends. Pride because so many look up to them. Pride because they will always be the best, no matter how many years have past…
A local “Dancing with the Stars” uses Baryshnikov as to describe perfection. I’ve heard the judges tell cocky participants, “Hey, who do you think you are? You’re not a Baryshnikov yet!”
Cute, strong, and graceful, Mikhail Baryshnikov is widely considered to be one of the greatest and biggest names in dance. Beginning his career from an early age and strongly driven by passion, he was admitted to one of the best ballet academies in Leningrad, Soviet Union. In 1969, at the age of twenty-one, Misha went from being a graduate student to principal dancer of the Kirov Ballet. The Imperial Russian Ballet was originally founded in the 18th century, later renamed to Kirov Ballet in 1934, and after the fall of communism and up to present day is known under the name of Mariinsky Ballet. Today, it is recognized as one of the world’s leading ballet companies… after the Bolshoi, of course.
Mikhail starred in the Kirov Ballet for five years, while secretly dreaming of dancing with the major ballet companies around the world. He wasn’t the first or the last Soviet ballet dancer to dream of a life overseas… as it turns out it was quite “fashionable” during that time to simply run away while on tour… and so it was, in 1974, Mikhail decided to flee into Canada, requesting political asylum. After his defection, he pursued his career overseas, dancing in the American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet. Regardless of his betrayal to Mother Russia, what is undisputable is his talent, his charm, his virtuosity.
Excerpt from the film White Nights
I was never much of a balletomane, until quite recently. As part of my research for this post, I started indulging myself more and more with this beautiful form of art. After watching a plethora of videos, I was stunned by the flair of ballet dancers. One can perceive the magnificence of their dance with a naked eye. Anna Pavlova (1881 – 1931), Galina Ulanova (1910 – 1998), Maya Plisetskaya (1925 – ), Rudolf Nureyev (1938 – 1993), Māris Liepa (1936 – 1989) are all great names of Russian ballet. Anna Pavlova is most famous for creating the role of The Dying Swan (click for video). Galina Ulanova was prima ballerina assoluta for sixteen years in the Bolshoi Theatre. Beautiful Maya Plisetskaya conquered the world with her theatrical glamour, her talent. Nureyev was the first to excel in both modern and classical dance. Native of Soviet Latvia, Māris Liepa was considered one of the world’s finest male dancers at the height of his career.
In this video, Maya Plisetskaya dances The Dying Swan. I find it simply astonishing, beautiful. I have seen many great ballerinas, but none like her… with movements so magical, so swan-like. What most astounds me is the way she moves her arms, as if they have no bones. Plisetskaya seems to have been destined for a life on the stage, for she continued dancing for over sixty years and is still teaching up to this day. Such is the life of a prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi Theatre… perhaps the most exceptional ballerina of the 20th century.