Mikhail Baryshnikov to Take Center Stage at Northwestern Graduation, 6/21

Mikhail Baryshnikov to Take Center Stage at Northwestern Graduation, 6/21

Mikhail Baryshnikov, founder and artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center, critically acclaimed film, television and theater actor and one of the world's greatest ballet dancers, will receive an honorary degree and deliver the main address at Northwestern University's 155th commencement.

Northwestern's 2013 commencement ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 21, at the University's Ryan Field.

Born in Riga, Latvia, to Russian parents, Baryshnikov trained in Riga until moving in 1964 to Leningrad to study at the Vaganova School. In 1969, he was accepted as a soloist into the Kirov Ballet and quickly was promoted to the rank of principal dancer.

In 1974, while touring in Canada, he decided to stay in the West and made his debut with American Ballet Theatre at the New York State Theater dancing the role of Albrecht in "Giselle" with Natalia Makarova.

A Dance Magazine critic best summed up the anticipation that preceded that debut: "Thunder broke in the theater at Baryshnikov's entrance." Even before the debut, Clive Barnes, then New York Times dance critic, saw Baryshnikov in dance class and described him as "the most perfect dancer I have ever seen." Baryshnikov went on to perform around the world with almost every major classical and contemporary dance company as well as working with the leading choreographers of the time.

In 1979, he joined New York City Ballet and worked with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

Baryshnikov became artistic director of American Ballet Theatre in 1980, and during his 10-year tenure there, he worked to promote and develop new American talent, most notably by commissioning works for the company by modern choreographers.