Picks and Pans Review: Baryshnikov

UPDATED 06/15/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/15/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Gennady Smakov

Mikhail Baryshnikov is the most interesting dancer in the world right now, and his biographer, a former Soviet critic, has followed him to the West. This is a fan book, however, and disappointing. While it records every step of the dancer's professional career, it is not critical and, although Smakov is a friend, his account is thoroughly impersonal. (Actress Jessica Lange, mother of Baryshnikov's 3-month-old son, is mentioned only once.) The best part of the book is the beginning, where Smakov describes the training and restrictions that a dancer faces in the U.S.S.R. It is easy to understand why Baryshnikov, limited in the Kirov company by his small stature and pixie-like appearance to character roles, eventually defected so that he could try modern and contemporary dance. Now 33, with a successful film (The Turning Point) and TV special behind him, Baryshnikov has become artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre. His emphasis there, as Smakov predicts in this book, is on restaging Kirov classics such as Swan Lake and Giselle. How ironic. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.95)

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