- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Mikhail Nikolaevitch Baryshnikov is standing by himself in a crowded cocktail reception at the Four Seasons, looking a little lost. We immediately seize the moment. How does it feel, as the greatest male dancer on Earth — the legendary Russian defector whose daring leaps and boyish good looks took the world by storm — to be known primarily now as Sarah Jessica Parker’s love interest on HBO’s “Sex and the City”? He laughs gently.

“Everywhere I go, that’s all I hear. There’s that guy from ‘Sex and The City.’ For the rest of my life, I’ll be known as that guy.” He is clearly tickled by his heartthrob status, and at 55, the father of four, he still has that mischievous twinkle.

Wearing silver glasses, he looks smaller than his official 5-foot-7 frame, and tiny, in a tuxedo that seems to have come from the boys’ department.

Mr. Baryshnikov, “Mischa” to his legions of adoring fans and friends, has come to receive a Distinguished Service Award from the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank headed by dapper, bearded fellow Russian Dimitri Simes and devoted to the late President Richard M. Nixon’s mission to “enhance American security and prosperity while taking into account the legitimate perspectives of other nations.”

It’s a night of toasts and roast beef, and, of course, a post-Soviet celebration honoring Mischa’s “triumph of the human spirit.” Never mind that several of the speakers mangle his name, Mr. Baryshnikov receives a standing ovation from the gregarious former U.S. Ambassador to Spain George Argyros, the rather cranky former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, the always elegant Julie Nixon Eisenhower (in a spiky coif) and her smart husband, David Eisenhower. Also in the crowd: former U.S. Trade Representative and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Carla Hills, handsome HBO honcho Richard Plepler, Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov and former member of the Georgian parliament Tsotne Bakuria, who chatted in Russian with Mischa and reminisced with Sen. Patrick Leahy about a trip to Georgia — the country, not the state.

Sneaking a cigarette in the lobby, Mr. Eisenhower tells us he’s writing a book with his wife on the watershed year of 1968. “Out of all that chaos, there was order,” he says. Inside the dining room, the talented Classika-Synetic Theatre — a Georgian dance troupe directed by Paata Tsikurishvili — gyrates onstage as Mischa watches approvingly.

After Mischa whisks out, the Georgian dancers party on in the bar, at one point breaking into song.

Mr. Nixon, an inveterate piano-player-sing-along kind of guy, would have loved it.

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