This May, I had the amazing opportunity to meet one of my greatest dance inspirations: Mikhail Baryshnikov. He is truly amazing; he vibrates with energy, and when he focuses on something. . .you can feel the intensity.

In 1974 while on tour with the Bolshoi Ballet, Baryshnikov defected from what was then the Soviet Union to Canada. This received worldwide coverage and was huge news in the dance world. I was about 9 at the time, and this life decision made by Baryshnikov somehow clicked a switch inside of me.

By watching Baryshnikov’s career and the choices he made in his dance form, he gave me permission to think outside the box of MY art form. If you look up Baryshnikov’s career to date, you see that he has continually evolved throughout his career to grow as a dancer, to work with creative people, and to learn new things. I felt like I was being given the freedom and permission to do what it was I needed to do dance-wise.

I probably wouldn’t have created my format without the influence of his career decisions. I never gauged my success by the applause of my community. . but instead I performed each and every time as if Baryshnikov might be in the audience; it didn’t matter if it was a huge theater full or people or one table of people in a nightclub. He inspired me to be the best dancer I could be. . .and to have the freedom to explore and evolve.


Image: Mikhail Baryshnikov & Suhaila Salimpour, May 2012