Biography Essay



Bornon January 27, 1948, in the Soviet Union, Mikhail Baryshnikov, alsoknown as Misha, was a Russian-American dancer, actor, andchoreographer. He was one of the greatest preeminent male balletdancers of the 1970s and 1980s (DeFrantzn.p).His father was Nicholai Baryshnikov and his mother was AlexandraKisselova. He was a husband to Lisa Rinehart and Jessica Lange. Heserved as a freelance dance artist, primary dancer, and as a dancedirector of different dance centers such as American Ballet Theatreand New York City Ballet.

Baryshnikovworked in several organizations for various positions. For instance,he joined Kirov Ballet as a soloist. Luckily, he did not undergo theroutine apprenticeship due to his excellent performance. Throughouthis career life, he worked for renowned artists like Jerome Robbins,Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, Igor Tchernichov, and Oleg Vinogradov,among others. Additionally, he co-founded with “White Oak DanceProject” a touring company of dancers. In 1968 and 1969, he wasrecognized as Kirov Ballet’s premier danseur noble where he playedthe role of Gorianka and Vestris respectively. In 1974, he migratedto Canada to quench his thirst for contemporary dance and later movedto the United States. In 1976, while in Canada, Baryshnikov got achance to work with creative choreographers such as Glen Tetley, AvinAiley, Jerome Robbins, and Glen Twyla as a freelance artist. It wasduring this time that he got an opportunity to explore thesynchronization of contemporary and traditional techniques. Between1974 and1978, he worked as the principal dancer at the AmericanBallet Theatre. During this period, he choreographed, as well asimprovised his classics like the “Don Quixote” and “Nutcracker.”In 1976, he made a debut performance in television “In PerformanceLive.” In 1977, CBS, a TV network purchased “The Nutcracker”one of his ballet theater performances.

Laterin 1978 and 1979, he joined New York City Ballet where he worked withchoreographer George Balanchine. In 1990, he got a job as an artisticdirector at American Ballet Theatre where he worked for nine yearsuntil 1989. In 1990, he co-founded a touring dance company with MarkMorris, a dancer, and a choreographer, and they called it “WhiteOak Dance Project.” He became the artistic director, a position heheld until 2002. Much later in 2005, he founded Baryshnikov ArtsCentre, an art complex that provided space and facilities forperforming arts like dance, film designs, music, and theaters.

Throughouthis life, Baryshnikov won several awards. In 1966, he won a goldmedal at the Varna International Ballet Competition. In 2000 and2003, the United States Congress and International Dance Associationawarded him the National Medal of Arts and Prix Benois de la Dancerespectively. Later in 2012, the Vilcek Foundation also awarded him aVilcek Prize. In addition, in 2006, 2007, and 2008, Baryshnikovreceived honorary degrees from New York University, ShenandoahUniversity, and Montclair University respectively. Other awardsinclude the Commonwealth Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, and theChubb Fellowship Award, among others.

Indeed,Mikhail Baryshnikov is an American’s ballet dance treasure. Mostpeople refer him as the twentieth-century dancer. His art of styledefined his success and uniqueness as a dancer, choreographer, and anactor. As an artist, Baryshnikov is well known for mastering ballet,as well as re-choreographing traditional ballet dance and promotingcontemporary dance forms. He gained much popularity in the SovietUnion due to his performers and the opportunities with renownedchoreographers.


Bornon January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey is an African-American activist andchoreographer. He was born and raised in Manhattan, New York by hisparents, Lula Elizabeth Ailey and Alvin Ailey. As a choreographer, hepromoted the modern dance forms. As an activist, he initiated severalprograms to promote arts, especially those that benefited hiscommunity. His early life was not easy since his family was poor.Additionally, he was born when there was racial segregation.Nevertheless, fate had something positive for him. According toDeFrantz(n.p), his dance was enhanced by innovation and driven by passion.Therefore, when he joined dance school, he introduced new dancingtechniques that changed the modern dance course. In his lifetime, hetraveled to many countries until people nicknamed him as the“Cultural Ambassador to the World.” He also achieved severalawards for his efforts and contribution towards the American Danceculture, and for fostering inter-racial unity among different races.

In1942, Ailey and his family migrated to Los Angeles, California. Here,his mother enrolled him in a junior high school, but due to racediscrimination, she later transferred him to a black school, ThomasJefferson High School. While in school, he wrote poems, as well assang spiritual songs in the Glee club. He graduated in 1948, andlater joined the University of California to study languages. In1949, his friend Carmen De Lavallade introduced him to dancing andpersuaded him to join Hollywood Studio of Lester Horton. Later, hemigrated to San Francisco where he continued his studies. He alsojoined a nightclub where he paired with a famous dancer, MargueriteJohnson.

Inhis lifetime, Ailey worked with several companies. In 1953, he got anopportunity to work with different Hollywood film. For instance, hejoined Horton’s company as a dancer. In the same year, he assumedthe position of artistic director after the sudden death of Horton.He made his first Broadway in Truman Capote’s short-lived musical“House of Flowers” in the following year. In 1955, he appeared inthe Carefree Tree and served as a lead dancer. Two years later, hemade another Broadway musical Jamaica, starring Ricardo Montalban andLena Horne. In 1958, he started his dance group called “Alvin AileyAmerican Dance Theater” that brought him much fame. To encouragemulti-racialism and discourage racial segregation, Ailey recruiteddancers based on their talents rather than race. At the same time, hecould also choreograph for other dance groups.

Inthe 1960s, the U.S State Department sponsored his group for anoverseas tour, which created an international reputation. Later inthe Mid-1960s, he stopped performing but continued to choreographnumerous masterpieces. For example, he choreographed MasekelaLanguage in1969 that probed the experience of being a black in South Africa(DeFrantzn.p).Throughout his lifetime, Ailey choreographed an estimate of eightyballets.

Aileyreceived many awards including Dance Magazine Awards in 1975, CapezioAward and Springarn Medal by NAACP in 1979, and Kennedy Centre Honorsin 1988 (DeFrantzn.p).Up to date, Ailey remains a significant figure in the arts throughthe organizations that he founded and ballets that he created. Hisdance group has performed for over twenty million audiences acrossthe world. He died on December 1, 1989, at the age of fifty-eight dueto AIDS complications.


DeFrantz,Thomas. &quot100 Treasures – Alvin Ailey.&quot 100Treasures – Alvin Ailey.N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016.

DeFrantz,Thomas. &quot100 Treasures – Mikhail Baryshnikov.&quot 100Treasures – Mikhail Baryshnikov.N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2016.