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In 1974, then-Soviet ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to Canada in search of artistic freedom. He took the country by storm. The Latvian emigre is arguably the best dancer of the 20th century and almost certainly the most famous. In the ’80s, the American Ballet Theatre dancer embodied the modernization of a stodgy dance form—the overlooked sex appeal of Danskin tights and the imminent fall of the U.S.S.R all rolled into one. A bona fide Reagan-era celebrity, the flying Bolshevik partied at Studio 54, dated a bevy of models and actresses, and even starred in a couple of films, including White Nights—in which he manages to simultaneously battle the KGB and dance to Lionel Richie’s “Say You Say Me.” After more than a decade of being ballet’s golden boy, however, the master decided to step out of the spotlight in 1989 to expand his repertoire. In 1990, Baryshnikov debuted the White Oak Dance Project with choreographer Mark Morris. Their aim: to assemble a small, traveling modern dance troupe to perform a wide range of newer, edgier ballets. Over the past 12 years, White Oak has gained critical acclaim while traveling to more than 30 countries and giving more than 600 performances. At 54, the company’s co-founder continues to dance with the troupe. And even with wrinkles, bad knees, and dancers half his age, Misha is still the star of the show. Witness dance perestroika at 8 p.m. Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4, and at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. $40-$75. (202) 432-7328. (Sarah Godfrey)