Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in a scene from White Nights, with choreography credited to Twyla Tharp

Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy DM Archives

#TBT: Baryshnikov and Hines Star in 1985's White Nights

When White Nights opened in American theaters on December 6, 1985, it was a decidedly risky proposition. Mikhail Baryshnikov was a massive ballet star, but hadn't spent much time acting on camera. Gregory Hines was a lauded tap dancer on Broadway and in films, but had never been given a dramatic leading role. Yet director Taylor Hackford cast them opposite each other in a thriller.

Somehow, it worked—due in no small part to the decision to create characters based on the leading men's artistic personas. In the November 1985 issue of Dance Magazine, Hackford told us, "What I was trying to do was get at the root of what the frustration of their lives as artists has been."

With Baryshnikov as a ballet dancer who'd defected from Soviet Russia, Hines as a hoofer weary of being relegated to a "novelty" act, and the pair's uncommon chemistry during dance scenes that actually furthered the plot, White Nights today stands as a dance classic.

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Photo by Ema Peter, Courtesy University of Southern California, Glorya Kaufman School of Dance

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July 2021