Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rudolph Nureyev

Rudolph Nureyev born 17 March 1938 (d. 1993)

Rudolph Nureyev was the greatest male ballet dancer of his generation - and one of the two most significant of the 20th Century - the other being Nijinsky.

Born on a train somewhere in Siberia in 1938, he was a small, sensitive, somewhat deprived boy, bullied and tormented by the other children. But he had a flair for folk-dancing, and was discovered, taught and encouraged by two exiled ballerinas living in Ufa. His father was less than pleased on his return from the Second World War to discover his son studying ballet - picture a Russian Billy Elliot. His natural ability and an unshakeable self-belief gave him his escape.

Aged 17, he found himself enrolled at the Leningrad Ballet School, where he was brilliant and difficult. In 1958, following graduation he became a soloist with the Kirov Ballet. Having always struggled with the confining rules of the Soviet way of life, he fell foul of the Soviet security regulations while on tour with the Kirov Ballet in Paris in 1961, and rather than be sent back to the USSR, slipped his minders at the airport in Paris and sought political asylum in France - his 'great leap to freedom'.

Tried and convicted of treason in his absence, he spent the rest of his life fearing kidnap or assassination, for his defection had made headlines around the world and a superstar of the young Nureyev. His family, friends and teachers back home paid the price for his freedom.

His physical beauty, extraordinarily athletic and sexual dance persona, and bags of Russian charm, made him a leading light in the glittering world of international cafe society. But his passport to lasting success was the way he transformed the role of the male ballet dancer, much as Nijinsky had done years before - the solo male again became electric and thrilling.

He became a soloist with the London Royal Ballet, the Chicago Opera Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet, as well as forming his own touring companies and achieving great success as an artistic director and choreographer - particularly re-energising the established classics such as Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Romeo & Juliet.

His partnership with Margot Fonteyn [pictured] made both their stars burn brighter. His dancing career was long and he toured the world extensively, raising the profile of ballet and his own central role as its most shining star.

Nureyev's other significance was his openness about his own sexuality - ballet was ironically very closeted because of its effeminate image. Because he made no effort to appear heterosexual and yet was an incredibly athletic and male performer, he was able to explore and express roles without restrictions, which gave a depth not only to his performances but to the range of artistic expression for other male dancers. This openness however, may have had much to do with his extreme arrogance and super-sized ego.

Famously well-endowed, his sexual life was the stuff of legend - the gay playboy of the western world. But he also enjoyed several long-term relationships - he spent the early 60s involved with an older Danish dancer named Eric Bruhn (1928-1986) but their relationship had suffered from something of a 'Star Is Born' nature as Nureyev's career rocketed and Bruhn became an alcoholic. In the 1970s, he had a long relationship with Wallace Potts, a director and archivist; and in 1978 he met a young dancer named Robert Tracy, who moved into his New York apartment and stayed for fourteen years until he was evicted, complaining that he had been treated `like a lackey'.

In 1983, Nureyev was diagnosed with HIV. Rudolph Nureyev died of an Aids-related illness in Paris in April, 1993.

Leaving nothing to Robert Tracy (who took legal action and won), he left the bulk of his fortune to establish foundations to promote dance and medical research.

Rudolph Nureyev Foundation
Rudolph Nureyev - The Life

Top Photo of Rudolph Nureyev and nude photo by Richard Avedon. Second photo: RUDOLPH NUREYEV, ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL, LONDON, 1963 by SNOWDON

6 comments:

Momchil said...

Dear Sir, Madam

I think it would be wise to take this photo out of the internet!
You are destroying and Icon for many young ballet dancers who are inspired by the great Danseur of all times! Thank you for your kindness.
Sincerely,
Momchil Mladenov
momchilml@aol.com

Momchil said...

Or may be you could just cover his genitals with black black tape!!! I love this photo myself . Just think that is very inappropriate for the growing dancers.

Peter Rivendell said...

It's a photograph by Richard Avdeon - one of the greatest American photographers of the 20th Centry. I fail to see how it is in any way inapproriate for young dancers or in any way destroys an icon. If anything, I think this picture encapsulates one of things that made Nureyev such a star.

rusty ferrel said...

The people in the world are waking up again, so the nudity is nothing but nudity now. My mother, who loves Nurejev, would be shocked, true. The newer generations just see plain nudity. I do not think this is harming any dancers or other children; it's the grown-ups that need to grow up and face reality, raise the children in a healthy way, so that they can simply see what is, and not more. He was gay, as many, many people are, and he happened to be an icon, which many are. And... he had a naked body, as we all do.

Grateful for Nurejev, and all who do as they please, for themselves and for the education of others. And, he, certainly, always did as he pleased. For some to ignore parts of that makes no sense. We are not ignoring his actions to become a dancer, so why ignore his gayness and his love to show his naked body?

PBadyal1 said...

Please correct the date of death for Mr. Nureyev... he passed I 1993 not 1983 as stated on your page

Retta's Place said...

Gorgeous man. ALL the pictures are lovely! Don't cover a thing! He's a man, not a black piece of tape!