In this beautiful and fascinating book, Mikhail Baryshnikov talks about each of the 26 roles he has danced in the West since his defection from the Soviet Union in 1974 and, in the process, explodes the myth of the ""dumb dancer."" This is not a typical as-told-to account: these are Baryshnikov's own words, some of them translated from the Russian and all of them carefully organized by the editor, but they ring true. ""A cow on ice"" is not a phrase that would occur to people who have witnessed Baryshnikov s breathtaking jetÃ‰s and brisÃ‰s, but this, we learn is how he felt attempting his first work with modern-dance choreographer Alvin Alley. And one wouldn't expect a consummate ballet technician to say ""I thought my legs would drop off,"" even in reference to his first try at Balanchine. But these are the kinds of refreshing observations that this perceptive artist makes about his work with some of the great names in the dance world (Balanchine, Robbins, Tudor, Twyla Tharp) as well as about his new approaches to such standbys as Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Giselle. Baryshnikov reveals himself to be modest; passionate about his work; and meticulous in the preparation of his roles. Notwithstanding his virtuosity, it is style that preoccupies him--the softened lines in Fokine's Le Spectre de La Rose, the ""modest, peaceful grandeur"" of Balanchine's Theme anti Variations. Martha Swope is a photographer who understands dance. She manages to avoid that stilted, air-brushed quality that immediately identifies so many dance photographs as studio shots--even in her studio shots. In every respect--to look at and to read--the book is a joy.