Among Sex and the City disciples, Mikhail Baryshnikov is known coolly as “The Russian”. In the show’s final series, aired in 2004, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw was scripted to fall for an internationally renowned artist of compelling presence, whom the producers hoped would be European. Cue Mikhail Baryshnikov – who was born in 1948 in Latvia to Russian parents – a dancer of immeasurable skill and stature who may have had Mr Big fans puzzled, but left balletomanes short of breath when he took Ms Bradshaw for “a spin” in a Manhattan McDonalds.
Baryshnikov – nicknamed Misha – joined the Kirov at 19 and debuted in Giselle, catching the eye of several Soviet choreographers. Revered but repressed in Russia, he defected while in Canada in 1974.
His talent translated. A star principal with New York’s American Ballet Theatre by 1974, Baryshnikov later became the company’s artistic director. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time, but his boyish good looks and incomparable physical prowess also saw him leap to the silver screen.
The Turning Point (1977)
The Turning Point co-stars Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine as two women who have devoted their lives to dance. Baryshnikov was nominated for an Oscar (the film won eleven) for his role as Yuri, a superstar defector from Russia with a penchant for beautiful women (sound familiar?).
White Nights (1985)
A suspenseful glimpse into the world of an expatriate Russian dancer (Baryshnikov), who is forced back onto Soviet territory and placed in an apartment with a black American dancer (Gregory Hines) and his wife (Isabella Rossellini). Peppered with spectacular dance numbers, the film follows the trio as they plot their escape.
Company Business (1991)
A Soviet-spy affair co-starring Gene Hackman, Baryshnikov loathed Company Business and refused to do press for it. In an interview with Larry King in 2002 he dubbed the flick “a project of extraordinary mediocrity and colossal stupidity.”
Sex and the City (2003-2004)
The haughty, much maligned Aleksandr Petrovsky woos Carrie Bradshaw in SATC’s final series. Ballet aficionado Sarah Jessica Parker said the idea to cast Baryshnikov popped into her head in the shower and she was “over the moon” when he signed on. “He has such presence that Carrie gets bigger too”, she told The New York Times. ”The scale changes her.”
What’s your favourite Baryshnikov film/TV moment?
Image: Mikhail Baryshnikov (Aleksandr Petrovsky) and Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Sex and the City, episode 88, series 6, HBO