Is Millepied a K-Fed or a Baryshnikov?

I’ve seen a good number of articles like this one popping up on various celebrity gossip blogs, contending that Benjamin Millepied poked holes in his condoms and is basically just after Natalie Portman for fame and money – I guess like Kevin Federline arguably was with Britney Spears. Millepied has always seemed kind of like a romantic, like a Balanchine, always falling for his muses, so it didn’t really faze me when I heard he was dating the latest ballerina he’d choreographed on. Of course I don’t know him, and everything on those blogs is hearsay. I’m more interested in the public perception though.

I’m just wondering if anyone remembers well the Baryshnikov era. Was Baryshnikov similarly attacked for impregnating Jessica Lange? I was a very small child when that all happened but it seemed like the public just adored him, the two of them together. Or maybe that was just me lost in my little girl ballerina dreams. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t remember when the two first became a couple; I have no memory of him until they’d already split and I was terribly jealous of their beautiful daughter because she got to go to the White Nights premiere with her father in Hollywood. Anyway, if he was perceived differently, I wonder what is different.

In other Hollywood/ballet gossip, Aaron Sorkin is allegedly dating ABT’s Jacqueline Reyes.


  1. Yeah, well, Lange had this thing called “talent.”

  2. Exactly what is the point and relevance of Mark Panzarino comment except to have a dig at Portman? I wish people would leave these two alone. It seems everybody has something to say about this relationship when so little is known and people are only speculating. The truth is that the NY Post has done a bang up job of making these two out to be villains with their ‘homewrecker’ reporting. But this is the world we live in where gossip is everything.

    • I think commenting on the actresses’ talent (or lack thereof) is a lot more relevant than discussing if they “poked holes in their condoms.” Don’t you agree?

  3. I clicked on the link you gave. I do agree with one thing. Portman should definitely get a prenup! They could both be with each other for different reasons, but who are we to judge? Also, check out “Blue Sky”. Jessica Lang won the Oscar ten years after she made it. It’s a great movie!


  4. Re: Jessica Lange. I meant she won the Oscar for her role in “Blue Sky” ten years afteer she made it.

  5. Well….Baryshnikov was a huge, huge star, though–in his own right. I think few people today who aren’t balletomanes will have heard of, say, David Hallberg. But at that point, everyone had heard of Baryshnikov because of the whole escape-from-the-Soviets thing and the fact that he was, um, “active” with women.

  6. Thanks you guys for your thoughts on this. I honestly don’t remember that time very well. I didn’t know whether Baryshnikov was already famous or whether she kind of helped with that, but it seems like he already was. It seems like I know more about Nureyev’s defection than Baryshnikov’s. Yeah, I don’t think anyone in the ballet world (Millepied definitely included) is as famous right now as Baryshnikov was then.

    A Facebook friend also commented on my link to this post there, and she said, even without the internet, there just weren’t very many tabloids around then to trash celebrities like they do today. The internet of course just fuels pointless gossip.

  7. I’m watching the Golden Globes and have seen Jackie Reyes in several shots of the Social Network table, sitting right next to Aaron Sorkin. I guess the rumors are true!

  8. I’m the same age as Baryshnikov and followed his career closely after his June 1974 defection. He was a huge, huge star in his own right by 1976, when gossip and photos about his relationship with Jessica Lange started appearing. It never occured to us that he would be “using” her to promote his career, which needed no help from her or anybody else. Everyone was clamoring to see him and he was being heralded as the greatest male dancer of the 20th century. When ABT visited the Kennedy Center in that era, tickets would often sell out even before casting was announced, as everyone was so eager to get a glimpse of him.
    I do remember that we were all saddened at the physical and emotional collapse of Gelsey Kirkland that summer and fall, and wondered to what extent her break-up with Baryshnikov contributed. She last performed that year in summer 1976 in his touring company. (“Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap” is the extant video recording of that summer). In fall 1976, The Turning Point was filmed; Gelsey had dropped out, replaced by Leslie Browne. In December 1976, Baryshnikov premiered his Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center; Marianna Tcherkassky took the Clara role he had planned for Kirkland. Gelsey came back in better health the next year and did the Nutcracker in the version still available on DVD.
    Lange never married Baryshnikov because (at least as it was widely reported) she was still married to a failed artist in Minnesota and didn’t want to pay the costs of a divorce settlement, as she was quite successful. She left Baryshnikov for Sam Sheppard in the late 70s and I’m not aware of her marrying him either. He sometimes was quoted as saying he did not believe in legal marriage, perhaps because of his parents’ unhappy marriage and his mother’s suicide. But credible reports in recent years (e.g., the Wall Street Journal) say he did marry Lisa Rinehart a few years ago. Perhaps with age and three more children, he decided that made sense for all of them.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I really love hearing from people who were around then and remember so much. So Baryshnikov was really famous already, by the time he met Lange. So that is a really big difference between him and Millepied. How wonderful that a ballet dancer could achieve that kind of fame. Seems so foreign today, sadly. Amazing that performances would be completely sold out ahead of time, even before casting was announced. Another thing that seems to foreign to today … although, I hear that NYCB’s Swan Lake is nearly sold out (probably owing largely to Black Swan), and casting hasn’t yet been announced. Still, how amazing to have such huge ballet stars.

      I didn’t know Lange had already been married when she met him. And I didn’t know she was the less famous of the two.

      Yes, I see Baryshnikov around from time to time and he is often with a woman with very short hair who I’ve been told is Lisa Rinehart. I also saw Jessica in the audience when he performed about a year ago at BAC. That was fun 🙂

      Thank you again for your wonderfully detailed comment!

  9. Baryshnikov’s US debut in August 1974 was covered in Time:,9171,908654,00.html
    From that point on, there was mass hysteria — not just in the ballet world but among people who had never been to the ballet and just had to see him. The “ballet boom” had begun and lasted for the next decade or so. It’s hard to imagine that we’ll see that repeated in our lifetimes.

    He made the cover of Time magazine in May 1975, less than a year after his defection:,16641,19750519,00.html

    The Wolf Trap program from 1976 was rebroadcast on PBS that fall (although it was not released on video for many years). The Giselle with Makarova was on “Live from Lincoln Center” in June 1977 and his Theme and Variations with Kirkland was in May 1978, also on “Live from Lincoln Center,” so people all over the country got to see him early on. Alas, almost nobody owned VCRs in that era.

    I remember helping friends in DC psyc out the casting when ABT was visiting so they could get tickets before casting was announced. “Push Comes to Shove” was a safe bet, as he was the only one who did that role until many, many years later. With luck, he’d also do a pas de deux at those programs.

    And yes, I was at the world premiere of “Push” in New York in January 1976, the world premiere of his Nutcracker in December 1976, the world premiere of his Don Q at the Kennedy Center in March 1978, and both performances at Wolf Trap. blah, blah, blah…There aren’t many advantages to aging, but living on the east coast when Baryshnikov was in his prime is one of them, I suppose.

  10. Oh yes! Baryshnikov was quite the catch for then-starlet Jessica, primarily known to that point for her sexy writhing in the fist of King Kong! And to think she later had Sam Shepard as well ~ oh my. We can only hope she will one day tell her whole story! I chuckle as the gossip rags portray Benjamin as some golddigger nothing latching onto Natalie. Ha! She’s the “inferior” talent (if we must choose) and a very lucky young lady. That will be proven in time.

  11. Why do the two have to be played off each other all the time? How can one compare talent? Especially to say Natalie’s is inferior. I seems like one or the other is always being insulted.

    They are both very talented and very lucky to have each other and sharing one of the most special experiences two people can have.

    I wish them the very bes with their new family.

    • I agree that they’re both talented! I personally think Natalie is a very good actress and, even though I didn’t really like the film, still think she should win best actress at the Oscars.

  12. Interesting comments everyone! I saw the Wendy Williams show yesterday and she had a celebrity journalist who confirmed that Benjamin has indeed caught the acting bug! Here’s my prediction:
    He’s got the hollywood looks, acting ability, and not that much of an accent (one that he could easily lose, if he chose). With some solid acting training, and a good team behind him, he could easily have the kind of career Alexander Godunov had when he transitioned into acting. If not better. He looks a little like Matt Boomer, who’s the star of “White Collar” on T.V.
    The only thing that looks a little snarky is how he left his former girlfriend for Portman. But, life gets a little complicated sometimes, ya know?

  13. Thanks so much again for all the comments, you guys! I’m fascinated by what people have to say who actually witnessed the whole Baryshnikov / Kirkland era. Those Time magazine articles are incredible – thank you for the links, Ballet Lover! But at the same time they almost make me want to cry. I think you’re right that we very likely will not see that kind of star again in our lifetimes. It’s too bad because there are some really wonderfully talented dancers out there right now – Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Natalia Osipova, Sara Mearns, – who are thrilling to watch and really know how to perform. It makes me wonder what has changed. I mean, I know there was the big deal made of the defection, but it couldn’t be only that, could it? I guess it was that he was exotic and there was the thrill of the political intrigue along with American audiences probably having never really been exposed to a dancer that great. What an exciting time.

    Jeff, very interesting about Millepied and the acting bug… thanks for sharing that! Hmmm, I wonder if we will indeed be seeing him in some future movies…

    I have to say, I wish it were Marcelo. Or Roberto Bolle. Marcelo in particular is a great stage actor – or at least he is in the context of the story ballets. He does have an accent though. But so did Baryshnikov after all – a huge one!

  14. You know, re: the 70’s. It probably was just a perfect storm of events. All of the russian defections of the 60’s and 70’s. N.Y.C.B. was at it’s absolute height, creatively. As were Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Joffrey, Alvin Ailey, San Fransisco Ballet, Houston. All with the best choreographers in the world working at the time. Right here in America. All of the media attention. The climate of the decade……….it was really ligtening in a bottle. And trust me, as big as Misha was, Balanchine was the absolute King of The Dance. He didn’t even need the media attention that his dancers got for everyone to know his name.

    Now, as big as Misha was at dance, in Hollywood, he was basically regulated to “character” actor roles. He was not a leading man type. That’s why Godunov did a little bit better at film than Misha, in my opinion. He was just a more marketable “type”. As I believe Millipied is. And I think that this is a smart move on Millipied’s part. He’s at that age…….dance wise, where the body starts to act up, get injured, etc. He’s still young enough to pursue leading man roles and develope a career.
    And, you’re right. Roberto Bolle, especially, has a great look for film. Has he made any films already in Europe?

    • I’ll have to research Godunov movies. I didn’t know about him!

      Carlos Acosta had a small part in that movie “New York I Love You.” I didn’t see it. Natalie Portman played opposite him, interestingly. I wondered if he was going to try to transition into a movie career, but it seems he is going more for modern dance now.

      • The Internet Movie Database has his filmography and bio.
        He defected in 1979, but was forced out of ABT in 1982, so he didn’t have much of a dance career in the U.S. He was something of a disappointment as a dancer — he had impressive technical abilities, but (like too many Bolshoi dancers in that era) none of the finesse and polish of the Kirov defectors.

  15. BTW, I think Balanchine and Suzanne Farrell made the cover of Time in his new production of “Don Quixote” over a decade before Kirkland got it. I remember seeing that picture in Farrells autobiography, “Holding on to the Air”. Anyone know if I’m right?

  16. Jeff — Balanchine and Farrell made the cover of Life Magazine (published, of course, by Time, Inc.) in August 1965. It’s photo #9 in Farrell’s autobiography. Here’s the image on the Life web site:

  17. It’s also interesting about the 70s confluence of events, as Jeff says. It makes sense, with the political aspect of it all, which made it all kind of romantic. But it’s also interesting to me about Balanchine being so revered. Balanchine was the king, not Baryshnikov? So interesting to me. I find that when I watch Balanchine ballets, I usually like them, but don’t love them. I find that many others of my generation and younger who weren’t around in Balanchine’s heyday, or who are relative newcomers to ballet, often feel the same. I don’t know if we’re missing something, or if it’s not really there anymore… A subject for another day though!

  18. Here’s an example of how big Balanchine really was, and a little more 70’s dance trivia for you!
    In the movie “King Kong”, (remember Jessica Lang?!) the movie producer talks to Jeff Bridges character about the production he will stage after they capture Kong. He specifically mentions Balanchine with great exitement. I don’t think he mentioned Misha, but I could be wrong.
    My point is here is a mainstream movie, commercial entertainment, that mentioned Balanchine’s name in the course of an expository conversation between two characters. A movie that will be shown in every hick town in American, one that the dialogue is carefully crafted so that everyone who attends will understand it.
    So there you have it.

  19. Balanchine showed many works on live television, starting in the late 1950s, so he was known nationally. The Museum of Television and Radio had a program about this:

    If you scroll down to specific shows, you’ll see Playhouse 90 (1958), the Bell Telephone Hour (1959-68), the Ed Sullivan Show, etc. This was in an era when most families had just one television and, at most, three channels (CBS, NBC, and ABC). Whatever was shown was a big deal.

    I grew up in a Midwestern mid-size city and have very clear memories of seeing a lot of ballet that way. We also saw full-length films of classical ballets sent by the Soviet Union in the earliest cultural thaw after Stalin died; these were usually shown at a big movie theater on Sunday afternoons. So, classical ballet was getting a lot of national exposure in the 1950s and 60s, even for those not living in New York or other major cities, and Balanchine was a big part of that.

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