MISHA! by Barbara Aria


The Mikhail Baryshnikov Story
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A straightforward account of Baryshnikov's life and career thus far; but without an insider's eye to lend it a spark or some spice. Aria begins with the by-now well-known boyhood preceding Baryshnikov's defection at age 26 in Canada. Growing up in Latvia, with a military, remote father, and a seamstress mother (for both, this was a second marriage), Baryshnikov remembers tensions running high. While in his early teens and living away from home to study ballet, his mother committed suicide; a devastating blow, this is something Baryshnikov has discussed openly only of late. Aria continues on through the dancer's early professional days at the Kirov: "It was around this time that Misha and Natalia Makarova reportedly began a brief affair. . .Baryshnikov was infatuated with her. He would do anything for her." Several years later, Baryshnikov first saw Gelsey Kirkland, who would become another longtime partner when Balanchine and the New York City Ballet came to perform at the Kirov. After performing and exploring in the West for a while, Baryshnikov knew the lay of the dance land enough to name what he wanted: "In watching Tharp, Misha finally saw his real challenge." The result, of course, was that "Push Comes to Shove was a smash hit," and Baryshnikov was established here with a real personality. On the personal side, Aria makes note of the Lange/Baryshnikov liaison that gave him his daughter: "Misha and Jessica had a lot in common. Both were intensely serious about their work without being obsessional. They sought perfection but knew there were other things in life." And so on, to the present, including Baryshnikov's current trials and successes at American Ballet Theater. Aria covers the events in order, with brief quotes from the principles and some of her own interpretations of events. But there's no real new light cast here; and what we really miss is the sense that Aria had different or inside sources in compiling her account--Baryshnikov himself, or someone in his immediate circle. What we finish with is a distant, if competent, view.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1989
ISBN: 312-02610-2
Publisher: St. Martin's
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