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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It's the day of the show. You've rehearsed countless hours and meticulously developed your character, and you're ready to make it count. It's time to get into the right headspace without "getting in your head." Time to transform naturally without overthinking it. For all the artistry that leads to this moment, getting into character can be an art form in itself, unique to each dancer but resting on some common principles.

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