Martin Vennard
BBC
30 Sept 2018

Nureyev

The Russian ballet star Rudolf Nureyev would have been 80 this year, which also marks the 25th anniversary of his death. Yet, with a new documentary about him just out and a feature film due for release, the fascination in the dance legend clearly still lives strong.

In 1974, Nureyev - at the height of his fame - hot-footed it from a performance at New York's Lincoln Center onto the set of an American TV chat show hosted by Dick Cavett.

There was rapturous applause from the live audience.

"That's more than Mick Jagger got," Cavett said when the clapping finally died down.

Nureyev was dressed in a shimmering snakeskin jacket and purple, crushed velvet trousers.

The clip of this moment in TV history appears in the cinema documentary Nureyev, and underlines just how the Soviet-born dancer, with his good looks and impressive physique, had achieved rock-star-like status in the West.

"He was enormous. In my generation, everyone knew who he was," says David Morris, who is in his early 50s and co-directed the documentary with his sister Jacqui Morris.

It shows how Nureyev, as well as dancing on some of the world's biggest stages, crossed over into popular culture. He was on magazine covers, newspaper front pages and in gossip columns, and photographed with figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana.

He even appeared on the Muppet Show, performing Swine Lake with Miss Piggy.

But, David adds: "Dance is ephemeral and his celebrity sort of died with him."

The brother and sister say they want to introduce Nureyev to new audiences who know little or nothing about him.

"All eyes are on Russia now and we're talking about the Cold War again," says Jacqui.

"What we try to do in the film is introduce elements of the Cold War to a younger audience," she says.

"But always keeping it about him," David adds.

One of the elements is the propaganda coup that Nureyev's defection in 1961, while on tour with the Kirov Ballet in Paris, represented for the West. He defected as he was about to be sent home for breaking the company's rules.

It came just two months after the Soviet Union had got one over the West by sending the first human - Yuri Gagarin - into space.

"They were on top of the world and the worst thing that could have happened was a high-profile defection," says Jacqui.

Nureyev and his family paid a heavy price. He was only allowed back in the USSR more than 25 years later when his mother was dying, while his Soviet friends' careers were made to suffer.

The film uses archive footage, contemporary interviews with people who knew him and re-enactments by dancers to trace the story of Nureyev's life.

It follows him from his humble beginnings in provincial Russia, to Leningrad where he joined the Kirov and to his untimely death from an Aids-related illness in 1993 at the age of 54. It contains 15 minutes of what the directors say is previously unseen archive footage they unearthed.

It is not the first documentary about Nureyev, and a feature film about him, The White Crow, is due out next year, but it gives a real insight into Nureyev the man, not just the dancer.

One of the most moving scenes is when he is reunited in Russia in the late 1980s with his first ballet teacher, Anna Udaltsava, who took him under her wing when he was 11.

By then she was 100 years old and, on realising who has come to see her, the documentary sees her grasp hold of his arms and say, "My boy". Nureyev seems as touched by that recognition as by any of the recognition he'd received on the world stage.

The film argues Nureyev changed the role of the male ballet dancer from mainly supporting the ballerinas to being allowed to take centre stage.

"It was like seeing something from outer space," Lady Deborah MacMillan, who worked as a designer and producer with The Royal Ballet in London, says in the documentary.

"There was the English style, which was extremely polite and refined, and this extremely animalistic person appeared and from then on the bar had been raised," she says.

Nina Loory was a ballerina with Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet from 1963 to 1983. She doesn't agree with Lady Deborah's assessment.

"I don't think he alone changed the role of men in ballet," she tells BBC News. "It started changing in Russia at the beginning of the '30s.

"What he did with the Paris Opera turned them into a top ballet company." But she says his own performances were not always technically perfect and he had a reputation for being "difficult".

The film does not ignore the allegations of bullying and even violence against his colleagues.

The 34-year-old African-American dancer Eric Underwood, who was a soloist with The Royal Ballet until 2017, says Nureyev is not a role model for every male dancer.

"His influence is incredibly important, but I couldn't relate to how he looked and moved. Our backgrounds are so different," he says.

The film also focuses on Nureyev's personal and professional relationship with the English prima ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn, who was 19 years his senior.

There is footage of them in a San Francisco police station, where they are being charged with attending a party where drugs were used. Nureyev observes the proceedings with a mixture of amusement and contempt, while Fonteyn is wearing a grin and a white fur coat.

When Fonteyn was broke and dying of cancer in the early '90s Nureyev paid her medical bills, despite his own health problems.

There is great pathos in the story of the once first couple of dance trying to cheer each other up when he visits her in hospital.

The documentary also details Nureyev's often tumultuous love affair with Denmark's Erik Bruhn, who was one of the world's top male ballet dancers.

"Nureyev eclipsed him and it sort of tore them apart," says David.

The documentary is being released worldwide, including in some 80 cinemas in Russia, where many of its interviews were recorded.

"They loved him there and wanted to talk about him," Jacqui says.

One of the final scenes shows Nureyev reunited with his friends in post-Soviet Russia, blowing out the candles on his cake on his last birthday in 1992.

Despite everything, Jacqui concludes: "He loved Russia."

Nureyev is now showing in selected cinema.


Previously unknown ‘amateur-shot’ film shows ballet dancer’s sexually provocative side

Dalya Alberge
The Guardian
17 June 2018

**There is a short video on-site

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Previously unknown footage of Rudolf Nureyev will be seen for the first time in a new British documentary to be released in cinemas worldwide.

Ballet’s most famous star can be seen performing, choreographing and rehearsing in material unearthed by the film-maker Jacqui Morris.

She was taken aback to find about 16 minutes of unseen footage relating to the greatest male ballet dancer of all time.

In one clip, Nureyev can be seen rehearsing the Nutcracker with Claude de Vulpian, choreographing her while dancing together.

Most of the footage shows modern works created with leading choreographers such as Martha Graham.

Morris said of the footage: “You see him on stage, dancing very provocatively throughout … This is very avant-garde, very sexually provocative – the opposite of him playing the prince in ballet. In one section, he’s polishing a scaffolding pole in the most provocative way imaginable.”

She said the discovery was so important because prior to now there was very little footage of his contemporary work.

Morris described the material as “amateur-shot”: “Nureyev didn’t like being filmed because he knew his best angles when he was performing on stage, but he couldn’t control the camera. He knew what an audience was going to see live.

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“But he had good friends, particularly quite wealthy women, who followed him around the world, and he did allow them to film. There’s a couple of bits that we’ve found from other people who surreptitiously filmed in theatres.”

The documentary– Nureyev: All The World His Stage – will be released in September. Morris is a co-directer, with her brother David. Their previous documentaries include McCullin, about the war photographer Don McCullin, which received two Bafta nominations.

Nureyev died in 1993 aged 54. The Nureyev Foundation gave the film-makers access to around 20 boxes of old VHS tapes, among other material in a vast archive held in the New York public library.

David Morris said: “There’s about 16 minutes of dance footage that even the most diehard fan has never seen … There are things the Nureyev Foundation didn’t know existed.”

Over two years wading through the archive, Jacqui Morris realised that labels did not fully detail their contents.

Thierry Fouquet, vice-president of the Nureyev Foundation, was excited by the discovery. “There were lots of things I hadn’t seen before,” he said.

In her 2017 autobiography, the former prima ballerina Dame Beryl Grey recalled how Nureyev could transfix his audiences with the grace and beauty of his movement, but said he was also capable of brutal behaviour.

He could be rude even to his legendary dancing partner Margot Fonteyn, whom he adored. Grey remembered him kicking a ballerina so hard she required medical treatment.

Jacqui Morris said: “He could be a monster and he did hit people. There’s no question of it. But in the footage we’ve got, you can just see how hard he’s working and how much those dancers adored him because he pushed them. He would slap them, but they’d come out of it going, ‘you know what, I’ve just given a performance of a lifetime’. Dance was his whole life.”

Saturday marked the anniversary of Nureyev’s dramatic defection from the Soviet Union in 1961. He gave his minders the slip in Paris and presented the west with one of the greatest propaganda coups of the cold war.

David Morris said it marked a pivotal moment in history. “Nureyev’s life was dominated by politics, although he wasn’t political himself.”

He said the documentary would reflect the great tragedy of Nureyev’s life: “That he came to the west, was the great star of his age, but that he couldn’t see his mother.”

Trevor Beattie, the documentary’s producer, said the time that Nureyev lived in was not as “camera-obsessed” as it is now, so there is not “wall-to-wall” footage of Nureyev that someone of his fame and genius would now attract. “Imagine the footage that there would be [if Nureyev had his career today] … It would be non-stop. So, in comparison, there’s very little.

“He was a performer on the big classical stage, and those things were not filmed every night … Cameras were also more cumbersome than they are today. A camera on a tripod would be fixed to the floor at the back of row Z … and it wouldn’t move.”

The film-makers say that, even a quarter of a century after hisdeath, Nureyev’s story has never been more relevant. “His defection to the west is symbolic as Russia and the west struggle once more to reconcile conflicting values.”

The documentary takes an innovative approach to the form. As well as interviews with those who knew Nureyev, there are contemporary dance sequences choreographed by Russell Maliphant that tell his story where no archival footage exists.


Outspoken director has been questioned in a high-profile criminal investigation that his supporters claim is politically motivated

Shaun Walker in Moscow
The Guardian
8 July 2017

Russia’s Bolshoi theatre has announced the cancellation of next week’s world premiere of a ballet about Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev, staged by an outspoken director who has been questioned in a high-profile criminal investigation.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicNureyev was set to premiere at the Bolshoi on Tuesday in one of the most hotly anticipated stagings of the season. But in a move that has shocked the ballet world, the theatre said the show has been indefinitely postponed.

The ballet is based on the life story of Nureyev, the superstar dancer who defected from the Soviet Union and found new fame in the west before dying from an Aids-related illness in 1993 at age 53.

The performance is being staged by Kirill Serebrennikov, a theatre and film director who recently was questioned and had his home searched in an investigation into alleged embezzlement of state funding for the arts.

One of Russia’s most innovative and successful directors, Serebrennikov has previously staged a ballet based on Mikhail Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time at the Bolshoi.

Serebrennikov has fallen out of favour with Russia’s cultural authorities in recent years and has denounced increasing censorship of the arts. Supporters of Mr Serebrennikov reportedly said his questioning was politically motivated.

The Bolshoi said the dress rehearsal scheduled for Nureyev on Monday had been cancelled and the premiere set for Tuesday has been “postponed to a later date” which was not specified.

Serebrennikov did not answer his phone on Saturday afternoon.

The theatre’s management was set to give a press conference on Monday on the reasons for the show’s postponement.

The details of Serebrennikov’s production had been kept tightly under wraps, with even the name of the dancer performing the main role a secret, Tatiana Kuznetsova, ballet critic for the Kommersant newspaper, wrote Saturday.

She also reported on rumours that the production includes male dancers in dresses as well as portrayals of public personalities who are still alive.

She called it “the main event of the ballet season in Russia, and possibly in the world”, with critics from all over the world set to attend the premiere.

In May Serebrennikov’s flat and the state-funded Gogol Centre theatre he heads in Moscow were raided by investigators in a probe into alleged fraud over state funding for arts.

Serebrennikov himself was questioned as a witness, while the accountant and a former director of a company he founded were arrested.

Serebrennikov’s supporters called the raid a politically motivated attack on the independence of the arts, and the Bolshoi general director Vladimir Urin wrote to President Vladimir Putin to complain about the handling of the investigation.


Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

nureyev: (Default)
( 23 Nov 2016 03:54 am)

Flashbak - 'Studio 54 In The 1970s: Wonderful Photos Of Famous Faces Dancing At New York’s Killer Nightclub'

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Dancer Rudolf Nureyev initiates nine-year-old Ricky Schroder into the delights of disco dancing at Studio 54 in New York on Sunday, April 2, 1979. Ricky had previously attended the preview of the remake of 'The Champ', in which he stars with Jon Voight. (AP Photo/Quinto - larger version available on source)




Uploaded by John Hall

Here are four snippets of performances by the dancer in four ballets in 1961, just before and after he arrived in the West:

[1] 'Laurencia' solo - Leningrad

[2] 'Sleeping Beauty' solo - Leningrad

[3] 'Swan Lake' solo - Leningrad

[4[ 'La Bayadere' - Paris

The film was mostly taken by Teja Kremke, a fellow student at the Kirov and sometime lover of Nureyev.


From 2007

By MATTHEW GUREWITSCH
NY Times
AUG. 26, 2007

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Rudolf Nureyev in 1960 posing for a friend’s camera near the Leningrad Ballet School. (Credit Tamara Zakrzhevskaya/WNET and BBC)

A POINT comes in the afterlife of an artist when, for the time being, biography has pretty much done its work. The essential history is known; the ambience is broadly understood; the relationship between the life and the work has yielded its chief mysteries. Barring bombshells any future surprises are apt to be minor: not revelations, just minutiae.

To judge by the title, the 90-minute documentary “Nureyev: The Russian Years,” written and produced by the British filmmaker John Bridcut, would promise to fall squarely into the category of marginalia. After all, when Rudolf Nureyev, the young sensation of the Kirov Ballet, bolted from the clutches of the K.G.B. to asylum in Paris, he was all of 23. That was in 1961, and his glory years lay before him.

Even so, the prelude behind the Iron Curtain proves a mesmerizing subject. Between previously unknown film clips of the young Nureyev in full flight and fresh interviews with associates whose lives he touched or inadvertently destroyed, the material is of novelistic richness.

A BBC production in association with WNET in New York, “Nureyev: The Russian Years” receives its American premiere on the PBS series “Great Performances” on Wednesday. (Check local listings.) The BBC broadcast, with six extra minutes, follows on Sept. 29.

Of special interest is the shadowy Teja Kremke (pronounced TAY-ah KREM-keh), an East German ballet student who met the young Nureyev in Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was then), was smitten and urged him to seek his fortune in the West.

Credit for unearthing the connection to Mr. Kremke belongs to the British writer Julie Kavanagh, who began research for a new biography of Nureyev in 1997. Her book “Nureyev: The Life” is due from Pantheon on Oct. 2. Television rights to the project were sold to the BBC some time ago, and Ms. Kavanagh is listed as a consultant on Mr. Bridcut’s film.

Glamour, rough sex, intrigue, scandal: Nureyev had it all, and much that was not a matter of public record was common knowledge. Even so, he took many secrets to the grave when he died of complications from AIDS in 1993. Ms. Kavanagh has unearthed many of them, notably about his reckless, flamboyantly indiscreet love life.

But pillow talk was by no means her only research interest. With dogged persistence she eventually obtained access to Nureyev’s K.G.B. file, the court documents of his trial (in absentia) for treason and a cache of self-abasing love letters from Nureyev’s idol, Erik Bruhn, the Danish danseur noble. The surprise, in the case of the letters, was that Nureyev had not burned them. But the surprise about Mr. Kremke was that such a person existed at all.

“I basically uncovered the story of a cold war thriller,” Ms. Kavanagh said recently from London. “No one had heard of Teja before. He doesn’t show up in any account of Rudolf’s life. His death was very murky. He drank. He was very depressed. His whole family was punished for his brief dangerous liaison.” Travel denied, study opportunities denied, wretched work: the usual bureaucratic torture. Mr. Kremke, especially, took it hard. He drowned under mysterious circumstances in 1979, still in his mid-30s.

Luckily for posterity Mr. Kremke was also an amateur filmmaker and compulsively shot Nureyev from the wings of the theater in the Kirov years. He followed him into the streets of Leningrad too; one of his clips is presented as an arty prophecy of Nureyev’s defection. But for global politics the romance might have continued. Ute Kremke, Teja’s sister, tells Mr. Bridcut she overheard a phone call in which Nureyev begged her brother to follow him to the West. Then the Berlin Wall went up overnight, and it was too late.

In commercial hands “Nureyev: The Life” might have been turned into a juicy television series, somewhere between “Rome” and “Queer as Folk,” with cameos for the likes of Nikita S. Khrushchev, Martha Graham, Aristotle Onassis and Robert F. Kennedy. The trick would have been to cast the uncastable part of Nureyev.

That was one problem Mr. Bridcut never had to worry about; from the beginning, his film was conceived as a stand-alone documentary. And he, Ms. Kavanagh and the BBC agreed that the subject should be the Russian Nureyev, the diamond in the rough. “This part of the story contained the most interesting new material,” Mr. Bridcut said recently by e-mail from England, “and was virtually virgin territory.”

The earliest known film of Nureyev dancing was made at a student competition in Moscow in 1958. At 20, dressed only in white harem pants, a gold headband and regulation soft slippers, he tears off a solo from “Le Corsaire.” The leaps and spins come thick and fast, embellished with Arabian Nights flourishes that go well with his Tatar allure. Yet the most seductive moment of the dance comes between the circus tricks, with a little nothing of a step called pas balancé. A sweep of the leg here, an echoing sweep of the arm there, and repeat, to the other side — that was all, then straight into the next cyclone of a pirouette. But that throwaway transition was Nureyev’s invitation to join him in his private world of fantasy. Technically, the narrator of the Bridcut film points out, Nureyev’s performance at the competition was “far from perfect.” But already the imprint of his personality was unmistakable.

Some of the old clips are little more than a blur, yet Nureyev is there. Sometimes it’s the snap we see, or the humor, or the core of tragedy. Sometimes it’s the plush, catlike landings, the fearless flight. In one clip he cavorts on a lawn, improvising in a striped wrap, cinched around the waist to form a tunic: a faun more frisky than Nijinsky’s. Sergiu Stefanchi, once Nureyev’s roommate at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, the training ground for the Kirov Ballet, remembers roaming the squares of Leningrad with him under the opalescent glow of the White Nights of summer. “You are a Stradivarius,” Mr. Stefanchi remembers saying back then. “Inside you are singing, and the steps are coming.”

Until now Mr. Bridcut has been best known for his biographies of the British composers Elgar and Britten. Some may grouse that his Nureyev film is not really a dance film. The dance sequences are just snippets, but the oral history fills in many blanks. Many of Mr. Bridcut’s talking heads — early teachers, childhood acquaintances, dancers, fans, admirers, an old flame Nureyev seriously considered marrying — are quoted in the Kavanagh biography, but none register in print as memorably or as vividly as here.

You will not forget the peppery Ninel Kurgapkina, an early partner at the Kirov, who made Nureyev pick up the flowers thrown by his fans before dancing her solo. Or Alik Bikchurin, a hard-headed fellow student Nureyev irritated and impressed in equal measure. Or Tamara Zakrzhevskaya, a university student who followed him around Leningrad when he was nobody, snapping photographs of him gazing like Narcissus at his reflection in a puddle. Ms. Zakrzhevskaya was one who paid dearly when he defected; the authorities expelled her from the university. Yet she speaks of Nureyev with undying devotion.

In the end, Mr. Bridcut said, working on “Nureyev: The Russian Years” was not so different from working on his music films. “It deals with the same excitement and problems of artistry — the degree to which real artists have to focus intensely on their own work at the expense of those around them,” he said. “This self-absorption — self-obsession, even — can be hard for those close to them. Benjamin Britten is a classic example, and yet those who were caught in his flame, even if they were burned, still have a great love for him, which is quite remarkable. The same is true of Nureyev.”


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Young Teja - Source: John Bridcut

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The portrait of himself which Teja gave to Xenia Pushkin - Source: Nureyev: The Life by Julie Kavanagh



I was looking through the illustrations in my ebook and found this:



Nureyev 'as Albrecht with his first Giselle, the delicate Irina Kolpakova.' (1959)
Image courtesy of Maude Gosling - From the book: Nureyev: The Life by Julie Kavanagh


Please go to the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation for more:

Nureyev dancing the role of Albrecht in Giselle

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