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Baryshnikov to deliver commencement address at Northwestern

Mikhail Baryshnikov is photographed Evanstwhere he is scheduled give commencement address Northwestern University Friday. | Phoby LisRinehart

Mikhail Baryshnikov is photographed in Evanston, where he is scheduled to give the commencement address at Northwestern University on Friday. | Photo by Lisa Rinehart

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Updated: June 21, 2013 3:52PM

It was Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University who invited Mikhail Baryshnikov to give the principal commencement address for the class of 2013. But it was his daughter, Anna, a junior majoring in theater at Northwestern’s School of Communication, who pressed him to meet the challenge. And so he will, speaking to graduates at Ryan Field Friday morning, and picking up his own honorary degree in the process.

“A father can’t say no to his daughter,” said the world-renowned dancer, actor and proud founder of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, a “lab” and showcase for talent in all fields of the arts. “Anna convinced me, in her perverse way, to say something meaningful. And Morton Schapiro said that with the upcoming opening of a new building for its arts school he wanted someone ‘from the industry’ to speak. Plus, Tom Hanks, whose [actor] son is graduating this year, did not want to do it.”

Accompanied by his wife, Lisa Rinehart (a former ballerina now earning her own advanced degree in communications in New York), Baryshnikov admitted to being a bit jet-lagged from a flight back from Europe earlier in the week, Friday morning’s early flight to Chicago from New York, and the taxi ride with a driver who was mistakenly told to take the couple to a downtown hotel rather than the one booked for them in Evanston.

Nevertheless, he graciously posed for photos with young admirers who recognized him in the hotel cafe. And then, between bites of a salad, he talked like any proud dad about his children: His oldest daughter (with Jessica Lange), who is both a mother and part-time actress-choreographer-dancer; and his two other children with Rinehart — a son who is a photographer, and a daughter.

Baryshnikov then spoke freely about art, politics, the state of the world and the issue of privacy.

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