Dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov was left “humbled” after being awarded a prestigious honour by the Queen Consort for an illustrious career.
Baryshnikov – a star of ballet, contemporary dance and also known for his role in Sex And The City – was presented with the Royal Academy of Dance’s (RAD) highest honour, the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award.
Past recipients have included Rudolf Nureyev, regarded as the greatest male ballet dancer of his generation, and Cuban sensation Carlos Acosta, artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
When Camilla first met the Latvian-born Baryshnikov, who studied and found fame in Russia before later moving to the West, she told him: “It’s a great honour to be able to give you the award, nobody deserves it more.”
Accepting the award later during the Buckingham Palace reception, the dancer said: “I really don’t have words to explain how I feel at this moment but maybe I can try to put my emotions in perspective. From very early years, dance has been my mentor, my teacher and my best friend.
“It has brought great joy, it has never felt like a burden, it has never disappointed. It has been an unspoken conversation with the world and I feel lucky to have found it.
“So, when I look at the list of prior recipients of this great honour, I’m humbled to say the very least.”
Baryshnikov listed some of those honoured in the past, describing them as “titans of the dance world” and adding “some of whom I’ve had the good fortune to know and work with. All have been instrumental in keeping dance vital and truly meaningful.
“I’m delighted, humbled and moved and deeply grateful to be added to this illustrious list.”
Baryshnikov, an ex-member of the New York City Ballet who in 2005 launched Baryshnikov Arts Centre in the city, was widely regarded as the leading male dancer in the 1970s and ’80s and was also noted for his role in movies and television.
He starred opposite Gregory Hines and Isabella Rossellini in the 1985 film White Nights and in the final season of Sex And The City played a Russian artist and love interest of Carrie Bradshaw.
Acosta, who read out the dancer’s citation before Camilla presented the award, called Baryshnikov “a great role model” to future generations.
He said: “When you talk about the history of dance, you can’t talk about ballet without Mikhail Baryshnikov.
“He was the catalyst for a generation. He opened doors for a lot of us.
“Based in Cuba, we didn’t know a lot of dancers but we knew Mikhail Baryshnikov.
“He is the ultimate artist. He is always looking for the next project, a great role model and still creating and exploring.
“He could retire but he feels the necessity of being on stage. He is a true legend and a truly humble human being.”