Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | June 23, 2011 11:00 AM | comments
Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History Tags: gay history, gay performers, HIV/AIDS, male athletes, Rudolph Nureyev
Two beautiful images of the one and only Rudolph Nureyev, the purest, the most beautiful, and the most tragic ballet dancer the world has known.
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Thanks for the Rudi pix... I'm a big ballet fan and it isn't too often to see dancers acknowledged outside ballet forums. I do disagree with classifying him as a "pure" dancer. He actually had a pretty messy technique, noisy landings to his jumps and wasn't terribly flexible. He had a spotty ballet training when he grew up in Ufa and didn't go to the Vaganova Institute in Leningrad until he was 17 (most begin their training there at 9). The dancer who was the most pure, another gay man (and Rudi's on and off lover for years), Erik Bruhn, was an incredible flawless dancer in a way that Rudi never was and that was a source of clingy envy for Rudi for his entire career.
Thanks for the additional background. My parents took me to see him when I was a kid and I was utterly dazzled by something I didn't even expect I could sit through. He was like a flame exploding on stage.
What I remember the most was his fantastic leaps. He seemed to float forever.
From what I've been told, Nureyev's spotty technique was more than made up for by his phenomenal stage presence.
He could own the stage with a single look or a few steps. His performance in Le Corsaire was described as that of a panther looking for prey.
I've always heard of Erik Bruhn's incredible technique, but I've not been able to find any YouTube vids showing it. I've only found his pas-de-deux with Tallchief and Alonso.
One of Bruhn's compatriots, Peter Schaufuss, has the most remarkable technical performances I've ever seen by a male dancer.
Nureyev's technique aside, his true fame came from his stage presence and the nurturing and fosterage of Balanchine. As a choreographer, Balanchine knew his dancer's capabilities and limitations, and designed his works to suit and to challenge them. He did that not only with Rudolph, but Michail Baryshnikov, and Peter Martin as well. OY! Peter Martin... now that was a piece of work.
Scott, Nureyev didn't work with Balanchine until towards the autumn of his career. For a long time, Balanchine didn't want anything to do with him. Rudy and Balanchine finally started working in 1979 (when Rudy was quite past his prime) on Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme featuring Rudy, but Balanchine was already dying and only choreographed a portion of it. It was an utter bomb.
A few years later, the Balanchine Foundation, which controls performance rights to the works withdrew permission for Nureyev to perform Apollo (perhaps Balanchine's most famous work for a male dancer) because they didn't like his performance (or his attitude). Rudy's real legacy came from popularizing certain Russian ballets like La Bayadere, Raymonda, Don Quixote and Corsaire which hadn't been performed in the West, making greater emphasis on the male dancer, along with his genuine championing of modern dance within a ballet context. He was very connected with performing Murray Louis, Jose Limon, Martha Grahame (although they later had a nasty falling out), Glen Tetley and, especially, Paul Taylor. And, yes, he was an incredible exciting sexy performer who drew thousands of people to ballet who weren't previously interested in it. Was he the greatest male dancer of his time... no, not by a long shot. There were dancers in the Soviet Union like Soloviev and Vasiliev and Danish dancers like Erik Bruhn who were absolutely his superior in terms of technique and polish.