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Since that day, Baryshnikov has been the yardstick against which all other dancers are measured.He emerged from the Kirov (now known as the Mariinsky) as the exemplar of the classical style, a man with a technique so precise that each shape seemed perfect, and whose ease of movement gave presence to every step.It was an idea that started small and lasted for 12 years. But what drives him to maintain the discipline of a daily routine that enables him to perform?“I want to keep my sense of connection to the audience,” he says.
“Rudi went dancing on and on, he wanted to be on stage, every day, no matter what.’’ He remembers a moment, late in Nureyev’s dancing career, when he visited him at his hotel between two performances of Sleeping Beauty.
I said something smart is happening in Russia,” says Baryshnikov.
“And then I was very happy that he was out.” He laughs, more sourly this time.
Mikhail Baryshnikov walks into the Teatro Nuovo in Spoleto, Umbria, huddled in a green hoodie, and sits slightly hunched, slightly nervous.
Outside, by appropriate coincidence, stands a statue of Jerome Robbins – an American choreographer who inspired Baryshnikov and was in turn inspired by him after his dramatic defection from Russia to the United States in 1974.
“And he was in a hot bath, drinking tea, looking like that famous painting The Death of Marat. I had a great time dancing with Natalia Markarova and Gelsey Kirkland – that kept me going the last few years on the classical scene – but they were partnered much better by other people. It was too busy.” Despite such differences, the two men were close.