My life has always been fueled by books and writing. It has also been fueled by dance. Much of my youth was focused on ballet and modern dance. Mikhail Baryshnikov, who defected from the Soviet Union in 1974, was one of my earliest inspirations. His 1985 movie “White Nights” with the late-great Gregory Hines remains one of my all-time favorites.
In a recent interview with Pointe Magazine Editor Amy Brandt, Baryshnikov said, “The most important thing for a dancer, besides mastering their technique, is to be persistent and brave when it comes to finding their own voice and style.”
That advice applies to writers, too.
It applies to all art forms and vocations, really.
“Art heals wounds, even the deepest ones. Art can be our best friend in our most lonely hours and can give us hope in the worst moments,” Baryshnikov told Pointe Magazine.
He has spoken out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and helped found a humanitarian organization to support Ukrainian refugees, True Russia. Its website is a database of social, cultural and scientific initiatives of Russian-speaking communities around the world who are anti-war and pro-democracy. Its founders and supporters seek to show the world that dictator Vladimir Putin “does not speak and act for all Russians.”
“I have been astonished by the heroic response of artists in Ukraine, many of whom exchanged ballet shoes for army boots…,” Baryshnikov said. “I had a brief correspondence with one of those dancers and told him he was my hero. He protested, saying he wasn’t a hero and that it’s the people of Ukraine who are the heroes. His answer, so immediate and so full of conviction, touched me deeply.”
Brandt asked Baryshnikov what advice he would share with his younger self. His answer is sage advice for us all.
“Don’t waste your time. Keep learning. Study languages, literature, math, geography. Step outside of dance. Go to the opera. Learn to play an instrument. Try photography. Visit museums. Broaden your horizons and stretch your imagination. Become a student of the world.”