Photo courtesy DM Archives

Celebrate the Anniversary of Mikhail Baryshnikov's ABT Debut With Rarely-Seen Archival Photos

On July 27, 1974, Mikhail Baryshnikov made his American Ballet Theatre debut, dancing opposite fellow expatriate Natalia Makarova in Giselle mere weeks after his defection from the Soviet Union. The then-26-year-old caused a sensation, with Dance Magazine contributor Olga Maynard observing in her review, "If Baryshnikov exerts his good influences on ballet in the West we shall owe him a debt of gratitude."


It proved to be a prescient remark: "Misha" had a triumphant performing career with both ABT (which he directed from 1980–89) and New York City Ballet, successfully crossed over to Hollywood (picking up an Oscar nomination for The Turning Point and bringing his inimitable charm to "Sex and the City") and has so far appeared on the cover of DM a record 14 times. He permeated the American public consciousness to an unprecedented degree for a ballet dancer, but when we spoke to him in 1974, his goals were far more humble: "I will hope that choreographers in the West will be interested in me as a dancer, enough to want to make ballets for me."

Makarova and Baryshnikov in Act II of Giselle, during his 1974 ABT debut

Louis Peres, Courtesy DM Archives

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