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BALLET

The Endless Flight Of Rudolf Nuriev


"His art signifies a triumph, a feast of man's dance," said the well-known Russian art critic and producer Boris Lvov-Anokhin about the great 20th-century dancer Rudolf Nureev, whose 60th birth anniversary is marked on March 17.

Rudolf Nureev's ascent to the creative Olympus began in Russia in the late 1950s-early 1960s. His talent reached its height during his life in Europe, where Nureev spent more than 30 years. He asked France for political refuge in 1961, when the Mariinski Theater was on a tour in Paris. This blocked his return home forever. He visited Russia only not long before his death,in 1989, when his career was on the wane. However his compatriots have always been proud of the great dancer, openly or secretly. With reference to his jumps they said that he spent more time in the air than on the stage. They admired his strikingly unusual personality. This is how Lvov-Anokhin remembers Nureev:

I was lucky to see Nureev in all his roles, says art critic Lvov-Anokhin. He became his theater's major performer, dancing the leading parts of the classical repertoire, when he was quite young. He was an excellent actor, possessing what is referred to as magic.

Many visitors of the exhibition which opened in Moscow on the eve of his jubilee felt the magic emanating from Rudolf Nureev. On display were videotapes with his performances, his interviews, and many photographs, which showed him among his partners and at home, with the British Queen Elizabeth and with Princess Grace of Monaco, with his friend - the brilliant dancer Eric Brun. His splendid stage costumes were also on display. They had been made under his own designs. The unique shoe made for him by Pierre Carden was also exhibited. Today, when Nureev is no longer among the living, people recall him not only as a dancer with remarkable plasticity, expressiveness and passion. They recall episodes from his life, the life style of a man at the height of his fame, rushing forward toward something unknown.

He gave about 300 performances a year. Great endurance enabled him to perform almost every day, moving from Milano to Berlin, from New York to Vienna. Having spent the night in a bar with friends, he would hurry to a rehearsal in the morning and work for 6 hours on end. He had many excellent partners: Claire Mott, Nina Vyrubova, Carla Fracci, Yvette Chauvire. However he viewed the opportunity to dance with the prima donna of Britain's Royal Ballet Margot Fonteyn for 20 years as his greatest luck. The ideal, as they were called, duet gained fame for their performances in the classical ballets: "Swan Lake, "Romeo and Juliet", "Giselle".

No other ballet dancer had such a vast repertoire, which included classical and modern ballets, choreography by Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, George Balanchin, Maurice Bejart. However it was not enough for his indefatigable creative spirit. He staged ballets himself, and in the last years of his life he dabbled in conducting. His appointment as senior choreographer of Grand Opera in Paris was the highest recognition of Rudolf Nureev's art. He staged his last performance in the celebrated theater. He appeared on the stage in the ballet "Bayadere" as a very sick man. The audience rose to applaud. Many wept...

Nureev's life was full of adventures and controversies. A very rich man, he collected sculptures, paintings, antiques. He owned several houses and flats in different countries. However he was born in a poor family. Nature gave him excellent health, but he fell victim to the "20th-century plague" - AIDS. He appeared on the stage for the first time as a fifteen-year-old boy in Ufa, the capital of Bashkiria, and ended his career in the capital of Europe, Paris. He died there on January 6, 1993, at the age of 54.

Not long before his death Rudolf Nureev said: "those who stage dances die, but their dances live". Fortunately today's technical opportunities made it possible to preserve on videotapes even his choreography, his "flying step". And the ballet's legend, Rudolf Nureev, continues his endless flight.

© The Voice of Russia
1996-2000

  SEE ALSO

Biography of Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993)
Life and dance of the great Russian gay performer Rudolf Nureyev.

Books about Rudolf Nureyev
Our selection of books about Nureyev that you can purchase on-line.

Spicy Life of Nureyev Accents Sex
Offstage, Nureyev was a denizen of gay clubs, but he was also known to dash out for sex between ballet acts...

FBI Watched Nureyev's Every Step
Was Rudolf Nureyev a Soviet spy? FBI opens its files.

Petrushka Was Poisoned
Did AZT contribute to Nureyev's untimely death?

A Birthday Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev
Rudolf Nureyev's own story with The Bayadere. To the 61st anniversary of the dancer.

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