Latavian. Started studying ballet at the Riga ballet school, then continued at the Kirov ballet school. Joined the Kirov ballet in 1967, was made soloist in 1968.
Proclaimed "wonder boy" by critics when he was first seen in the west in London by critics in 1970. Defected "on artistic, not political grounds" in Toronto in 1974 while dancing as a guest artist on a Boshoi Ballet tour.
He has danced with such companies in the west as the ABT and the Royal Ballet. Made his film début in 1977 in The Turning Point. He is also known for doing a pirouette with eleven turns in the film White Knights. Currently runs the White Oaks Dance Project, a modern dance project.