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It Was 20 Years Ago Today....

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.....that we lost Rudolf Nureyev, one of the best-known figures in the history of dance. He did so much to change the face of ballet, especially for the male dancer, and all of we balletomanes owe him a big debt of gratitude methinks. I wonder what he would have done for the rest of his career had he been given the chance. More choreography? AD of another large company? Travelling the world setting ballets to their original Russian pasts? The ballet world was robbed by his early demise.

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Where have the years gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in my friend's house as the news came on.


I never saw Nureyev in his heyday but I was lucky enough to see him do some terrific performances in the 1980s including the leading role in The Overcoat (made for him by Fleming Flindt) and Dr Coppelius at the Edinburgh Festival.

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I first saw Nureyev in 1966 when the RB came to Los Angeles and before that in the film of Romeo and Juliet with Fonteyn.


It was not just a revelation but a revolution - on every level: artistry, emotional connection, technique in service to that emotional connection. And probably above all - because it underpinned all - was his utter rapture with dance. Even now when I view those old tapes, though today's dancer makes all those technical feats look easy - they don't often approach Nureyev's utter commitment which still perfumes his performance and I think always will.


He was surely one of the dance giants of the century - a genius in many ways which included some of the flaws of genius. It was his very emotional need to dance which kept him dancing too long. However, for me personally, though my heart ached to see him dancing to the memory of what he had been - I understood and went purposely to one of those late performances when the cheers had turned to boos. I bought a ticket and sat in the audience as my way of thanking him for those many years of joy.


He changed the way the male dancer danced. He changed the way male dancers thought they should dance. He changed the way we thought of how a male dancer danced.


If his only accomplishment had been the resusitation of the Paris Opera Ballet - that alone was the accomplishment of a genius.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Apparently, a new 2-part documentary about Rudolf Nureyev ('Rebellious Genius') was shown in St. Petersburg in connection with the 75th anniversary of his birth on 17th March. There are plans to show it in European capitals... and a television series and feature film are also being planned:





[edited to add title of film]

Edited by Yaffa
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