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

Rudolf Nureyev in Apollon Musagète, choreographed by George Balanchine, 1974. Photograph by Francette Levieux [Source] - [Larger view onsite]

**An old article, just for fun.

By David Wigg
Daily Mail
26 Novemeber 2009

The setting was a discreetly fashionable London restaurant, the haunt of the great and the good, from international stars to royals, models and politicians.

I was sitting at my favourite table under the stairs waiting for my guest, when Lord Snowdon, who was also lunching there that day, asked who I was expecting. I told him that Dame Margot Fonteyn was on her way to meet me.

'Oh, do treat her with care,' he said, clearly impressed. 'She is a very special lady.'

Passion: The electricity between Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn was evident when they performed Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

A few minutes later she made her entrance. I would not have been surprised if she had demanded attention like a true prima ballerina - grand, haughty, serious, spoiled, and very self-important.

Instead, she slipped shyly into her seat without fanfare and over the next two hours I was enchanted by this petite dark-eyed beauty with a fine sense of the ridiculous, a zest for life, a talent for merciless mimicry, a good line in self-deprecation and a genuine interest in everyone and everything.

She loved to laugh almost as much as she loved dancing. And that lunchtime - the start of our great and enduring friendship - she confided to me over her veal cutlets and salad the truth on the subject about which everyone was gossiping: her relationship with Rudolf Nureyev.

A major ballet star in Russia at the age of only 22, in 1961 he had defected at Le Bourget airport in Paris and been given political asylum in the West.

He had turned up on the doorstep of Fonteyn, 20 years older and the star of the Royal Ballet, who had invited him to stay at her London home.

When they danced together, the electricity between them was palpable. 'It is the world's most exciting dance partnership', said the choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton. 'They were made to work together'.

'But it almost didn't happen', giggled Fonteyn to me. 'Well, I thought, what am I doing at my age dancing with this boy? When it was first suggested I should dance with him at Covent Garden, I really didn't want to do it.

'But I came to realise that it's much better to dance with somebody who is very strong, in personality and presence on stage, because they lift the audience up.

'Rudolf would do a solo and there would be tremendous excitement. The audience would all be up on their feet. Then I would dance my solo and I would get much more applause simply because he had already warmed them up.

'I knew it was better to go where the excitement was. Without him, I might have just been in the dull performances. So I thought, better to go with it. With him there was always an excitement that I could never resist.'

Chemistry: Nureyev and Fonteyn share a joke during rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet in London in 1964

However, the decision to pair up with him was not an easy one, she admitted to me. She worried that it would be too much of a challenge. After all, at 42 she had been expected to retire from ballet.

'He was a very strong, fantastic dancer, but remember I was 20 years older. So I thought: "If I'm going to go out there and dance with this boy, I'm really going to have to make a colossal effort."

'That really, in a way, was the basis of our success together.'

With a petite, slim figure, she couldn't have contrasted more with Nureyev and his powerful neck, broad shoulders and muscular body. He mesmerised audiences by the way he could lift ballerinas into the air longer than anyone else and his lightning leaps across the stage.

She, meanwhile, danced Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, performing astonishing fouettes en tournant - spinning on one toe for longer than any other ballerina of her day.

So much for their working partnership, but, I asked her, what does Rudolf actually mean to you? She suddenly became coquettish and for a moment seemed like a lovestruck young girl. 'I admire him tremendously as a person. I think he has enormous courage.

'He's very direct and doesn't go in for falseness or hypocrisy. If I talk to him about anything, he says exactly what he feels. I have to be careful what questions I ask, in case I can't handle the very honest and direct response I will get.

'I think somebody who cuts himself off from their home, as he has, is very brave. I always feel he didn't really like the separation from his family, but it had to be done.

'He wanted to dance, and he knew he could only flower, develop, learn, and be appreciated, in the West.'

It was clear that Dame Margot was in thrall to her partner. Were they lovers? Who can say for sure - nothing she said to me made me think they were any more than two very highly charged and talented people making the most of their astonishing chemistry together.

It's something that is dwelt on at great length by a BBC4 drama next week, based on Meredith Daneman's biography of Fonteyn, with Anne-Marie Duff playing the title role and Dutch actor Michiel Huisman as Nureyev. One scene which may shock the many ballet devotees who revered her is where Dame Margot is shown in bed, making passionate love to Nureyev.

Nobody really knows what went on in their private life, but she was fully aware of Rudolf's obsession with sex; that he was gay with a penchant for good-looking, strong young males, and known to be promiscuous with difficulty in committing to anyone.

She herself had had a chequered history with men, losing her virginity at 16, seducing the dancer Michael Somes and embarking on a long affair with her svengali - composer Constant Lambert. She was 18 and the married Lambert 20 years her senior.

In Paris in 1948 she and young choreographer Roland Petit, four years her junior, had a brief affair, during which they swam naked across the Seine.

Petit introduced her to couturier Christian Dior, who would dress her for the rest of her life and persuaded her to have plastic surgery on her nose.

Petit said that despite the demure, regal image she displayed to the stagedoor fans, she was a woman who really needed to have sex. There followed a liaison with the bisexual dancer Robert Helpmann and another lover, the film director Charles Hasse, who described her as 'insatiable'.

But in her mid-30s Margot married the Panamanian diplomat Roberto de Arias, whom she called Tito, turning a blind eye to his constant infidelities.

Nureyev meanwhile, claimed to have slept with very few women, and said that he was 'bored and repelled' by sex with them. But he adored Fonteyn. 'Our relationship works very well,' he told me one night in his dressing room.

Passion: Choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton said the pair was 'made to work together'

'I know that she says she felt she had to make a big effort if she was going to dance with me, but that's how I felt about dancing with her, too.'

With his sensual good looks, Nureyev never had any trouble attracting partners. He once said, though, that he had only ever loved three people - two of them were men and the other was Fonteyn.

However, he made it clear to me, as Dame Margot did, that all the magic and fireworks between them were confined to the stage.

'Anything that goes against my work, anything that stops me on the way, they have to be bulldozed.

'Romance is nice. But my romance is my dance. It is everything to me; my past, present and future. It is like my religion.'

Nureyev was known not to suffer fools gladly and I had been warned he was a man of extreme moods. 'No, I only explode when it brings results,' he told me.

But he admitted he had little time for developing long-term and solid relationships. 'I think work creates a man. Everything else is secondary. My motto is: "Everything betrays you sooner or later - only your work betrays you last."'

His work ethic matched Fonteyn's. She finally retired at 60, after a 17-year dancing partnership with Nureyev. She devoted her time to caring for her husband Tito, who had been left a quadriplegic by a bullet in the spine after an assassination attempt in 1964.

On that night, Fonteyn had again been dancing with Nureyev. Although she was aware of her husband's unfaithfulness, and at the time was contemplating a divorce, she remained devoted to him and would arrive at smart parties, determinedly pushing him in his wheelchair.

She nursed him in between fulfilling arduous dancing engagements, bankrolling first his political ambitions and then paying his private medical bills, which almost financially broke her.

'It was a good thing that I had my career to keep me going,' she told me, 'because it took a certain amount of concentration, which is a help if you are in a crisis.'

She had no regrets about anything, she told me, not even that she had no children. 'It would not have been fair on them. What if I had a little girl and everybody said: "Are you going to be a dancer like your mummy?" That's terrible pressure.'

Tito died in 1989, after Dame Margot had spent all her savings on nursing care for him, and she died two years later, aged 71, having fought cancer for more than a decade.

Nureyev died of Aids in 1993. Certainly it would never have bothered Dame Margot that her Russian partner was gay - she enjoyed such company, particularly as she had grown up with so many homosexual male dancers.

Towards the end, he said of her: 'We danced with one body, one soul. Margot is all I ever had, only her.'

The Fonteyn that I knew would have agreed with that, but with her fine sense of humour she would have shrugged it away.

'Rudolf?' she said to me once. 'I was just his London nanny.'

nureyev: (Noureev)
( 21 Jan 2015 09:31 pm)

Robert Tracy (52) former ballet dancer and prolific dance writer. Besides several books on dance, Tracy also wrote articles on dance, theater, music, art, and film for newspapers and magazines. He died of AIDS in New York City on June 7, 2007.

From 2003: As Rudolf Nureyev's lover and confidant for 14 years, Robert Tracy knows more about the dancer than anyone. For a decade he has kept silent, but now, for the first time, he tells John Ezard and Carolyn Soutar about dancing, sex and caviar with one of the 20th century's greatest artists

John Ezard and Carolyn Soutar
The Guardian
30 January 2003

Rudolf Nureyev in 1980

At the zenith of their love affair, Rudolf Nureyev used to compare him to a god. Robert Tracy has dark-brown curly hair and a sturdy chest. When he was 23, he reminded Nureyev of Mars, the young god of vigour and war, in a favourite baroque canvas by Carlo Saraceni. "He used to say I was like the lover in the painting, lying on a bed," Tracy says 24 years later, speaking of their relationship for the first time.

When the two of them were dancers Tracy had an aerial leap that led Nureyev to tell a friend, "I would like to hire a theatre just so as to have people watch Robert jump." Coming as it did from the supreme jumper in the history of ballet after Nijinsky this was a compliment.

Robert Tracy, 4 years before his death in 2007

Tracy was the most durable of Nureyev's live-in companions. They were together from 1979, with only a break of eight months, until shortly before the dancer's death in 1993. For the first two-and-a-half years they were lovers - a long time by the standards of Nureyev's highly promiscuous and professionally driven life.

Tracy is rare among the artist's close companions in speaking about their relationship. He heard Nureyev talk in private about his anxieties over his fading youthfulness, about the women he had slept with, about his longing to have fathered a son. Their bond did not, however, mean that Tracy could expect to command the kind of fidelity which the god Mars would have demanded from a lover. Neither did he want to. "Rudolph told me there were going to be lots of boys around. There were lots in my life too. I was wild. That was just the gay sensibility.

"He was content not to commit himself to one person. I was happy not to be committed too, it meant I was free. It was 1979, towards the end of the gay revolution. I never thought he would live exclusively with me. I had boyfriends - and girlfriends - too."

On January 6 1993, Nureyev died at the age of 53 from Aids, a diagnosis which was kept secret until the morning after his death. Tracy has never accepted this diagnosis. He believes his friend, like other gays, was the victim of poisoning by governments. In speaking of their relationship, and the other relationships in both their lives, he insists, "Sex is not on trial here."

Nureyev made no will. He left an estimated $33m (£20m) to a foundation named after him. Under an agreement with the foundation which recognised his entitlement to some security after the long relationship, Tracy received $600,000 (£364,000), paid in instalments. One condition was that he did not talk publicly about the relationship.

The agreement has lapsed, but Tracy has remained in seclusion in New York, teaching dance history as an associate professor at Fordham University and publishing well-reviewed books. Last month, days before the 10th anniversary of Nureyev's death, a researcher who had spent six years looking for Tracy - who had been carefully guarding his privacy - finally succeeded in tracking him down at home for an interview.

The researcher is Carolyn Soutar, who remembered both men from Nureyev's historic seasons at the London Coliseum in the 1980s. Tracy, already his companion, danced in some of the ballets staged there.

Soutar recalls that one of Nureyev's tricks to fire himself up was going on stage 15 minutes late, with audiences slow hand-clapping. Another was to be naked in his dressing room when Soutar went to call him. "He would ask, 'You want me to go on like this?'" she remembers. "It always put a sparkle in my eye."

After warming up in the wings of the stage, he would say, "Let's see if Old Galoshes can dance tonight."

The remark was light but rueful. Nureyev was then in his early 40s, an age at which most male dancers have long given up. He had a spur on his ankles, a bony growth veteran dancers get which makes it painful to land after a step. He had chronic back pain from decades of lifting ballerinas. All the star ballerinas were heavy, he complained.

In an interview during this period he explained he had given 250 performances that year. How many were good? he was asked. Nureyev answered, "I have done three good performances." Yet, with Margot Fonteyn's example and his own prodigiously consuming love of the art to sustain him, he was still struggling to produce Petipa's La Bayadere at the Paris Opera in the weeks before he died.

When he met Tracy he was 39 and already preoccupied by a sense of time passing. Tracy, who is now 48, says, "He was always talking about my youth. He felt his own youth was being taken away from him. At the age of 23 I didn't understand. I had no idea I was going to go through it myself."

Tracy, son of an English teacher, grew up in Massachusetts. He took a degree in Greek and Latin at a New York University, where he was encouraged to train as a dancer. He went to George Balanchine's School of American Ballet. There in 1979 he was one of a few students hand picked by Balanchine to perform in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, a work the Russian-born choreographer created for Nureyev.

Nureyev and Tracy met on the way to rehearsal. Tracy, who knew Nureyev had recently visited Egypt, asked him about the country. Nureyev asked him where to buy batteries for his ghettoblaster. After the rehearsal and further chat, Nureyev asked him for tea at his New York hotel suite that afternoon. They ended up in bed.

Nureyev asked him to phone next day. Tracy thought he was joking. A day or so later at rehearsal, Nureyev asked why he had not phoned. Tracy looked at him in amazement. They went out together for three evenings, then Tracy moved in with him. Nureyev introduced him proudly to his circle. "This is my young friend, Robert Tracy."

Tracy says, "I always wondered why it was me. He had three million young men. He just liked me. It was my intelligence, and he liked my legs, and my jump. We were almost instantly physically attracted. It was a whirlwind. I was 23, wild and open to anything. I just let him call the shots. I always thought it wasn't going to last. There were always, always other guys around, younger, with better bodies."

Tracy says, "I just went with it, and the relationship lasted all that time. He gave me great trust and friendship. He did not take my youth. He shared it with me. He shared his wisdom, knowledge and experience. It was a master and apprentice role as well. One thing that attracted Rudolph to me was that I was not a stud. I was an academic."

Nureyev's friends were relieved to see him with a young man who was not a hustler or rough trade, someone who could converse over dinner. One friend called Tracy "very lucid, full of energy". But superstar life came as a culture shock to the younger man, used to living on a $200 (£120) a month student grant. At an early date in the cordon bleu Russian Tea Room on 57th Street, he ordered his student standby meal, a tuna sandwich. "How dare you be so American?" Nureyev said.

Tracy got to like caviar, and the lifestyle: the apartment above Lauren Bacall's in the Dakota building opposite Central Park, the house beside a nudist beach at St Barts in the Caribbean, the Virginia ranch house where a whole room was devoted to an organ so that Nureyev could play Bach.

Some of their happiest times were at the ranch house. Jackie Onassis would come to ride, friends and dinner would be flown in from New York. "That was life - helicopters, private jets."

But Tracy is conscious that he caught Nureyev in his physically declining years, on "the downside of the ecstasy" of a great artist's life. He realises too that he was one of a series of close acolytes which such artists seem to need. Balanchine was the same, he says, in relations with women. Each close relationship seemed to last about two-and-a-half years. "I think that kind of situation fuels an artist's creativity."

Nureyev hit him once in Caracas, in a row over a man. Next morning on a flight Tracy woke from a nap to find his friend patting his head, a memory which still moves him. But they had another row, drifted apart and split. Nureyev had been teaching him the virtuoso role of the Bluebird in Sleeping Beauty for the Vienna State Opera Ballet. One of the first parts Nureyev himself had danced after defecting to the west in 1961, it suited Tracy's prowess at jumps. But in leaving Nureyev he lost that chance. He felt an element of relief, however. "I did not want to be thought of as Rudolph's protege. There was no way I could live up to that. I knew my potential."

Eight months later they were brought back together by Nureyev's friend Violette Verdy, ex-prima ballerina of New York City Ballet. This was partly because Nureyev's circle was worried about the alternative company he might find. But they stopped having sex. "Rudolph used to say you become friends once you get sex out of the way," Tracy says.

He became Nureyev's social organiser and secretary as well as companion. "I never thought of myself as a great dancer," he says, "I would rather have organised Rudolph's dinner and document his work."

It was Tracy in whom Nureyev confided his longing to have a son with Nastassja Kinski, who acted with him in the flop 1980s US film Exposed. The two them might have managed it, Nureyev said, "but I could not get rid of [her minder] for long enough". In his craving for fatherhood, he told Tracy, "I would have had two children, but both the women had abortions."

Tracy also says, "Rudolph told me he had slept with three women." He will not discuss names, but speculation by others in the dancer's circle points to a ballerina. The dancer named in this speculation is not Margot Fonteyn, Nureyev's earliest and most illustrious western partner.

But it was Tracy with whom Nureyev discussed the surreal notion of comforting Fonteyn in her last illness by ferrying tapes of the 1950s US television sitcom I Love Lucy to Panama where she was dying of ovarian cancer. Re-runs of the show were one of the early bonds between Tracy and Nureyev. "It was sheer, glorious anarchic slapstick humour. Rudolph would watch it after breakfast if he was feeling really wiped out. We loved it. Sometimes it would be on three times in the morning.

"He said somebody told him laughter was the best cure for anything, including cancer." Fonteyn died in 1991.

Tracy last saw his friend in May 1992. During the terminal phase of Nureyev's illness - with his production of La Bayadere triumphantly on the Paris stage - he phoned the Hopital Notre Dame du Perpetual Secours but was refused admittance. Only Nureyev's close family was allowed at the bedside.

He understood this, but left Paris, sensing that "the death circus" - the media vigil at the hospital, world publicity over the death and the international VIP funeral - was already beginning.

Afterwards Tracy went into what he calls "a period of social hibernation" publishing seven books on dance in seven years. "Rudolph's legacy is to have brought dance to the people. Dancers at the moment, like Sylvie Guillem, and all the others, have been so greatly influenced by him, by his choreography. Yet I am concerned that, in interviews, apparently Rudolph seems not to exist. They talk about Baryshnikov, but not Nureyev.

"He did more to emancipate the role of the male dancer than anyone else. He took them away from being merely a chevalier . I try to write about Rudolph in each book and every article I do. He is in everything and is everywhere. He permeates my soul."

• Robert Tracy in 2003 was currently working on a study of the dancer, choreographer and director Alvin Ailey. Carolyn Soutar was writing a memoir about working with Nureyev.

• Image of Nureyev uploaded to Pinterest by Lisa O'Brien

By John Bridcut
Published: 17 Sep 2007

In 1961, Russia's finest dancer slipped through his keepers' fingers to defect to the West. But, years later, the Soviet secret police had their revenge.

The KGB had seen it coming. When Rudolf Nureyev, the most promising young talent in Leningrad's Kirov Ballet, fled the Soviet Union for the West in June 1961, they were not surprised.

He was known for flouting house rules, and flirting with Western artists and ideas whenever he could. On the Kirov's tour of Paris in June 1961, he continually escaped his escorts to absorb French culture and friendship.

Off stage Nureyev was capricious and wilful

It was why the KGB had tried to restrict his foreign touring, and had even asked his own mother whether he was likely to defect.

At Le Bourget airport outside Paris, the KGB had it all planned. As the rest of the Kirov tour party boarded the plane to London, there was a tap on Nureyev's shoulder at the departure gate, and an urgent summons to Moscow to perform for General Secretary Khrushchev.

The burly men in the inevitable raincoats bungled it. Thanks to Nureyev's hysterical reaction and quick thinking by his French friends, he slipped through their fingers, and made his so-called "leap to freedom". But the KGB played a long game.

The defection was particularly embarrassing for Moscow because it came only three months after Yuri Gagarin's pioneering journey into space. Nureyev, once hailed as "the cosmonaut of the stage", dashed both pride and propaganda. The West was quick to claim a political victory.

But in truth his choice was practical rather than ideological. Nureyev had no interest in politics. He was a natural rebel against authority, whatever its political stripe. In Russia, he saw little chance of spreading his wings. So, with one or two discreet friends, he had been toying with defection, but he had made no plans. He just knew what he had to do when the moment came.

Paris was entranced by Nureyev's dancing, but off stage he irritated his French hosts just as much as his Russian minders.

Capricious and wilful, he behaved like a spoilt child. The dancer Pierre Lacotte was amazed at the latitude the Kirov had afforded him over costumes and wigs: he told Nureyev that, in Paris or London, a company dancer had to wear what he was told.

The sad truth that June was that most of his colleagues at the Kirov were glad to lose him. For the management he was simply trouble, while his fellow dancers relished filling the vacuum.

The KGB, however, wanted him back. His celebrated teacher, Alexander Pushkin, and his devoted student friend, Tamara Zakrzhevskaya, were ordered to write pleading letters; his father, a loyal communist, was pressed to fetch him; and Soviet sympathisers in Paris tried to destroy his confidence by pelting him with missiles and catcalls on stage.

When these efforts failed, the KGB made other plans, one of which was to break his legs. He was tried in his absence and sentenced to seven years in prison as a traitor.

Next, the KGB turned to his friends. Pushkin was repeatedly questioned, and suffered a heart attack.

The careers of Leonid Romankov and his twin sister Liuba, scientists whose interest in literature and art had stimulated Nureyev, were blighted because of their friendship with him. Tamara Zakrzhevskaya was expelled from university, and forbidden to travel even to Eastern Europe for 30 years, for the crime of knowing him.

"In this life," she says today, "you have to pay for everything. I had this friendship with Rudik [Nureyev]: it has stayed with me for my entire life. I don't regret anything."

His friends in Leningrad kept the Nureyev flame alight in secret. In a communal apartment in Gatchinskaya Street is a remarkable – and completely unknown – private archive, assembled by a bereft fan after his defection.

Faina Rokhind is 80: she first saw Nureyev dance at his graduation in 1958, and became one of those who showered him with flowers in Leningrad before anyone in the West had even heard of him.

While researching this Saturday's BBC documentary on Nureyev, I found myself in her room (no more than four metres by three) which is almost a shrine.

The walls are adorned with images of Nureyev in his prime, and the cupboards and shelves overflow with books, photograph albums, magazines, scrapbooks and videos – one woman's unique collection in defiance of Soviet authority.

In the rest of the Soviet Union, Nureyev became a non-person just as his international career was taking off. Russian books about ballet were recalled and every reference to Nureyev was literally cut out: he was excised from Soviet consciousness as though he had never been.

But through her job in a Leningrad library, Faina Rokhind had access to foreign magazines. In her mid-thirties she took up English so that she could decipher British and American articles, which she faithfully copied out into exercise books.

By studying dance notices, she reconstructed every moment of Nureyev's career in an elaborate timeline. She managed to procure his autobiography in English, photographed page by page, and translated into Russian to circulate samizdat among her friends.

In the weeks after his defection, Nureyev was lonely and depressed. He telephoned home: his father refused to speak to him, but his mother tugged at his heart-strings, with the KGB keenly listening in.

He called East Berlin to speak to the handsome German student, Teja Kremke, with whom he had had an affair in Leningrad. This time the Stasi were listening.

Nureyev pressed Kremke to join him in Paris and ease his loneliness. Kremke's mother insisted he complete his studies first, while his sister urged him to fly the nest. Kremke hesitated, and the Berlin Wall went up without warning. He was trapped. Teja and Rudolf, who had become "blood brothers", never met again.

In a letter, Kremke advised his "sweet Rudik" to stay in the West, but it was intercepted and the Stasi (in the manner of the recent film The Lives of Others) spied on Kremke relentlessly through two marriages and a drink problem, until his death in unexplained circumstances at the age of 37.

For some years, Nureyev spoke to him occasionally on the phone. He also met Kremke's Indonesian wife, Nuraini, who could travel to the West. After Teja's death, Nureyev signed a photograph for her – a magnificent self-portrait of Teja.

The KGB were waiting for the endgame. All through his glory days, Nureyev was pained by the separation from his beloved mother.

In 1987 she was dying, and Mikhail Gorbachev finally granted him free passage to visit her. But it was already too late for recognition, let alone meaningful communication, and his anguish was compounded by a general cold shoulder in his home town of Ufa.

He was turned away at his old school, and berated in the art gallery. At the theatre, his old colleagues had mysteriously been given the day off. Some had been told not to answer the phone, while others had been sent out of town on spurious excursions.

Two years later, he fulfilled a dream to return to the Kirov stage. But again it was too late.

He was now 51, and hoped to perform a matching character part. But the Kirov authorities insisted on a youthful classical role – Albrecht in Giselle, which had launched his partnership with Margot Fonteyn more than 25 years before, or James in La Sylphide. They must have known these were beyond him.

The conductor, Robert Luther, remembers him asking where "the bitches" were who had denounced him after his defection, and then greeting a former ballerina effusively while muttering "here comes number one" under his breath.

But Nureyev was weak from Aids, and the dress rehearsal was a physical torment, as his old rival, Boris Bregvadze, observed: "On stage he was really bad. I left after the first act, because I didn't want to carry on watching a frail and ill Rudi struggle."

It was his second cruel homecoming. Both Nureyev and the KGB were in their twilight years. But the KGB had perhaps had the satisfaction of revenge.

When the curtain rose to reveal Nureyev asleep on a couch, the Kirov audience erupted in applause so long that the conductor had to stop the orchestra and start again. But when he tried to dance, the legend began to crumble. The modern audience wondered what all the fuss was about.

His one-time partner, the French dancer Ghislaine Thesmar, says it was important for him to "close the circle. He went on stage to dance like some people go to the temple and pray when they can't walk any more. That effort is sacred."

For Faina Rokhind in Gatchinskaya Street, it was a reward for her years of devotion.

"It was like a fairy tale, a miracle. I couldn't believe my eyes that I was once again seeing Rudolf on stage. It was a sign of the changing times. I was euphoric."

• John Bridcut wrote and produced Nureyev: 'From Russia With Love,' a BBC production
**I found this today whilst I was looking for something else. I wanted to post it. It did not have the photo with it, so I chose one of Nureyev in 'The Ropes of Time' from here.

Thursday, 7 January 1993

Rudolf Hametovich Nureyev, dancer, director, choreographer and producer, born Razdolnaya Lake Baikal 17 March 1938, Soloist Kirov Ballet Leningrad 1958-61, Dance Magazine Award 1973, naturalised an Austrian citizen 1982, Ballet Director Paris Opera 1983-89, Principal Choreographer 1989-92, Commandeur des Arts et Lettres 1992, author of Nureyev, An Autobiography 1962, died Paris 6 January 1993.

HE PUT male dancing on the international map: he was a name known to people who never saw him; and he was so sexually, so sensually attractive to men and to women that a collective sigh arose at his each first appearance on stage. The craving, the longing, were stirred by feats of masculine athleticism, spectacular excitements in Le Corsaire or Don Quixote, ardent love in Giselle, Swan Lake, Marguerite and Armand, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty. Such scenes changed the public view of ballet in the West. Off-stage their creator, Rudolf Nureyev, was private, lonely, different.

Each week for many years I drove past a huge photograph of Nureyev nude from the waist up. It looked out on swirling traffic from a window of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, one of south London's gay pubs. Gone now, the photograph recalled the swinging Sixties and Nureyev's impact upon them. At the same time opera-houses across the world showed other photographs of the megastar in many costumes. 'He is,' wrote Margot Fonteyn, 'not only an exceptional dancer but also a unique personality fortified by one of the sharpest brains imaginable.' He has a 'haunted, untameable pride', wrote Alexander Bland, the man, who, had he lived, could have written Nureyev's biography.

Nureyev's two lives, both dedicated to dance, were fashioned by poverty, sacrifice and a realisation he was different from others, an outsider. Difference was nourished by an unshakeable conviction from about the age of seven that he was moving towards the fixed destiny of a dedicated dancer. It was upheld by an exceptional physique and temperament for dance, underpinned, as he wrote in his autobiography, by a sense that 'Death is at the end of the road, one knows it, yet one continues along it.' Superstitious he was to a degree.

This sense of destiny placed Nureyev apart from the world beyond dance. Lionised, idolised in the West, reversing the Kirov's repressive treatment of his talent, he accepted the press, photographers and critics as unfortunate intruders. The world which mattered lay in rehearsal rooms, classrooms, dressing-rooms and theatres. Here could flourish his temperament, always out of step with convention. Exceptionally honest, no matter to whom or about what, he never flattered nor expected to be flattered.

The mystery behind this temperament, the questions it raises, fascinate writers, everyone. The best answers lie in his early autobiography in 1962, introduced by Alexander Bland, and Nureyev (1975), by John Percival. The later career is analysed in Bland's marvellous The Nureyev Image (1976), his The Royal Ballet (1981) and Men Dancing (1984), by Bland and Percival. Bland, if anyone, is Nureyev's prolocutor.

Loneliness began early. Nureyev's family of mother and four children were Tartars evacuated to Bashkir and Ufa beyond the Ural mountains during the war. Their 'home' was a single room of nine square metres shared by three families. Rudolf wrote of hunger, 'constant, gnawing hunger', a few pounds of potatoes to last a week, selling their father's civilian clothes to buy food, fainting from hunger at kindergarten, teased by other children for lack of shoes and proper clothes. At home, the only boy, he played alone: 'no common games, no shared toys . . . I don't remember seeing my father until I was nearly eight.'

Hamet Nureyev was a soldier, stern, remote, who wanted his son to be an engineer or soldier like himself. Rudolf was closest to his elder sister and his mother, taking pride, too, in his Tartar background. The Tartar is 'a cunning animal', he wrote, 'and that's what I am.'

Dancing came later: out of music heard on the family's tiny radio; out of Tartar folk songs and dancing, 'which filled me with delight'; out of glimpses of ballet in the Ufa Opera into which he sneaked; out of clandestine dance studies and performance against his father's wishes, making life a lie; and out of help from local music teachers and others who recognised his talent.

Finally reaching Leningrad and the Kirov School, aged 17, much older than other new students, Nureyev became an object of jealousy or contempt, saved by the insight of a brilliant teacher, Alexander Pushkin. In only three years of formal study he mastered a syllabus and tradition which normally takes double that time or longer, became a prizewinner at the all- Russian student competition in Moscow and moved directly into the Kirov company in soloist and principal roles. Different again for refusing to join the Komsomol or participate in politics, he remained a rebel and nonconformist. Two factors dictated this way of life: his early experiences and also, I believe, his sexual orientation which, if expressed, placed him beyond the law in the Soviet Union.

Artistically and personally he had no choice but to seek another life. The choice was made in Paris on 17 June 1961. I saw him soon after. Peggy van Praagh, a close friend of mine, later founder of today's Australian Ballet, was teaching the company of the Marquis de Cuevas, in Paris, where I was working in film studios. Peggy called me to watch class. Among all the dancers of a large company in a crowded studio the eye went to one man, tousle-headed, very young, slender but electrifying in movement. Meeting afterwards, he was direct and witty in stumbling English. It was no surprise that he danced soon in London and became Fonteyn's partner.

We did not meet again until the summer of 1964 at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. I had joined the Royal Ballet Touring Company to plan my Ballet for All group as a branch of the company. 'Come along tomorrow,' said David Rees, the stage manager. 'We are doing the dress run of Raymonda.' This was Nureyev's first full-length production in the West, a highlight of the festival, based like all his work on the 19th- century Russian classical tradition. He and Fonteyn were to dance the leads.

Overnight, Fonteyn left to attend a paralysed husband she thought was dying in London. Nureyev, deeply disappointed, beset already by a designer whose work for the production was wholly inappropriate, gave Fonteyn's understudy, Doreen Wells, and the whole company a rough time in rehearsal. His temper always was sudden and violent. Afterwards I watched him in his dressing-room, tense and nervous like a racehorse before the race. The performance went well; Nureyev's incandescent personality made a huge impact on the Italian audience.

The foundation of this temperament lay mostly in his mind, the super-intelligence which Fonteyn noted: quick, sharp, ahead of others, always seeking perfection. The mind was matched physically by a natural gift for emotional expression through the body. Combined with outstanding strength, speed and control, this made Nureyev's remarkable acrobatic feats seem easy but always theatrical. A luminous imagination gave them dramatic point. These attributes were moulded by Pushkin, his teacher, within the constraints and discipline of professional training. The natural gifts were shaped and emphasised, because it is a dancer's personality which colours dancing and moves an audience, not the brilliant tricks. Nureyev's personality was introvert, yet explosive, Dionysiac rather than Apollonian, 'a virtuoso romantic', Bland said, masculine and virile, combining something of Byron and Valentino, whom he portrayed on film in Valentino (1977), and Bland described in The Nureyev Valentino (also 1977).

In build he was slight, almost too short for a danseur noble, more like a demi-character dancer, except his training, the inner control of a muscular though slender body, the remarkable turn-out of his legs, his evident confidence and joy in movement and the pride of his carriage, made him noble. The body, with its high-cheekboned dramatic face, held the eye even when still. In movement he used his body as a single expressive instrument from head to foot, emphasised by deep musicality, like Fonteyn. 'A dancer', Nureyev wrote, 'must give quite different and quite personal readings of ballets, as if they were poems . . .' This 'means studying for hours the exact way of placing a shoulder, a chin or certain stomach muscles.' Not the least of his loss to us is his knowledge of the body and its possibilities, as valuable to gymnasts as to dancers.

Within this body wilfulness and self-reliance, conflicting with loneliness and a need for affection, led often to moods and fits of depression. He was an assembly of contradictions held together by ego and dedication to dance. Yet from these contradictions sprang his controversial interpretations. To the Nutcracker for the Royal Ballet he gave a psychological interpretation which made it a unique production the company was foolish to discard. His own choreography, dramatic but rarely striking in ballets like Manfred (1979) and Washington Square (1982), was guided by the same personal view of life. So were his roles, more than a hundred, ranging from the Prince in Swan Lake for which he created a solo of personal loneliness in Act One, to James in Bournonville's La Sylphide, the boy in Jerome Robbins's Afternoon of a Faun, as Lucifer for Martha Graham, with Fonteyn, and the Spectre in Le Spectre de la rose, capturing the sinuous, unearthly quality of Fokine's conception. For all these reasons Nureyev could never be an easy company member nor adapt instantly to other ways of doing, as Fonteyn discovered.

His passion for dance and for adventure in movement carried him into every style, every country, to every choreographer, and more performances in more companies, great and small, than any dancer before. He danced with the Royal Ballet and the tiny Western Theatre Ballet at the Bath Festival, the Norwegian Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet, the Wisconsin Ballet and the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, Paul Taylor in the US and the Vienna State Opera in Europe, the Canadian National Ballet and the Australian Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and La Scala, Milan, the Stuttgart Ballet and London Festival Ballet. He would have danced at the North Pole if he could. Always in the background was his own Kirov company.

To each company, including the Kirov, Nureyev brought new qualities and conceptions. His presence demanded a room for expression they were constrained to give, especially in interpretation, whatever their national temperament. Here lies, I think, his greatest value and impact on Western dance culture. The range of his interpretations embellished many periods, classical or modern, and helped many companies. His presence raised the Canadian National Ballet to international stature. His seasons of short works - first in Paris, then as Nureyev and Friends in New York, and annually for 10 years at the London Coliseum - brought together stars like Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova, Lynn Seymour, and Merle Park in a range of choreography which extended the audience for ballet, and demonstrated the importance of the male dancer.

For Nureyev, dancing was collaboration to achieve perfection. Choreographers did not create for him, they created with him. It was the same with all his 30 recreated or original productions over three decades, from one act of La Bayadere for the Royal Ballet in 1963 to the full-length La Bayadere at the Paris Opera on 8 October 1992, one of his greatest triumphs. Without notes, with no adviser, he staged every detail of even the smallest role in a ballet of over 100 characters. If the Paris Opera Ballet, the world's oldest classical company, is now again the world's leading company, it owes much to Nureyev's artistic direction from 1983 to 1989. By the same token it shows what the Royal Ballet lost when it separated from him after the end of his partnership with Fonteyn in the early 1980s.

Three decades of mounting success transformed the way of life of the man but not his personality, nor the contradictions within him. Socially, he frequented clubs and restaurants, preferring to be host rather than guest, keeping late nights, like most theatre people. While enjoying the life of wealthy society he lived simply himself. A listener more than a talker, he demanded neither praise nor the awards which he sometimes failed to collect. There have been many, including the Legion d'Honneur from President Mitterrand in 1988.

Off-stage Nureyev mixed easily on equal terms with other dancers, or Fonteyn and her circle, or Jackie Kennedy and hers, or friends from the international art world like Gore Vidal and Franco Zeffirelli. His orchestral conducting in the last years of his life developed through conductor friends like Bernstein and Von Karajan. Musically informed already, he had wanted always to conduct, took lessons seriously and developed his musicianship to become another career. Across the United States, in Europe and the former Soviet Union orchestras applauded as well as audiences and dancers. Only in Britain did we not hear him.

Really close friends, though, were few. Maude and Nigel Gosling were his 'family' in England. Writing jointly as Alexander Bland they not only chronicled Nureyev's dancing life from the beginning but provided a permanent refuge and London base. Nigel died in 1982 so that it was Maude who continued the support through 10 years when kidney-stones began to trouble him, pneumonia, then a serious, ultimately fatal heart condition made worse by HIV.

Time was, wrote Nigel Gosling, when Nureyev's idea of extreme wealth meant never to be hungry. At the end of his life he owned seven properties in the United States and in Europe, a wealthy man thanks to the careful management of SA Gorlinsky, until Gorlinsky's death in 1990. The wealth, though, was incidental to dance, not a reason to dance. For a choreographer or cause in which he believed he danced without fee. He filled his various homes with paintings and furniture, chosen and bought by himself.

In private life his consumption of the arts was insatiable. He read and saw many of Shakespeare's plays, could sing many operatic roles and spent hours watching films and television. He built a library of books, always for the knowledge and insight they contained. A favourite author was Dostoevsky. He collected music on records, discs and tapes, bought sheet music to play on his pianos and spinet, and an organ for Bach, his favourite composer.

All this without secretary or diary, relying on his own memory and recall to keep appointments. Few letters were written, so that there are sacks of unanswered fan mail and cuttings waiting to be captured by an enterprising museum for a Nureyev archive.

He was no man for archives. 'Never look back,' he would say, 'That way you fall downstairs.' Instead he belonged to trains and planes, a nomad travelling always to the future. His faults were his temper, his moods, unpredictability and supreme ego, if ego can be a fault in a great artist. There were no tangents and few deviations except at the end when he continued to dance beyond his power, seeking to prolong the mastery which age and illness were destroying.

What, then, is the legacy of Fonteyn's unique artist? He gave to her another 10 years of creative life, 'a second career', she said, thereby creating a partnership which extended enormously public interest in dance and dancers. Their fame became a factor of political and international importance for dance. He changed the image of the male dancer in Britain, silenced the fathers who condemned dancing as a career for their boys, and outshone athletes in male achievement. In a sense, he completed the foundation of Britain's national ballet by demonstrating to its young male dancers a dimension of dance not achieved until then.

A reason for Nureyev's influence with dancers was his generosity in sharing the knowledge he possessed, not as some special favour, but as part of the job, an extension of his commitment to perfection. Already a great teacher in the style of his beloved Pushkin, Nureyev showed himself in Paris to be a great producer and director.

He was of his time, a man whose arrival in the West in the 1960s as rebel and outsider matched others who challenged through the arts the conventions of a society too fixed in its past. In that way his two lives came together. He provoked everyone to think again what they wanted from dance. By winning extraordinary acclaim, his achievements forced classical ballet out of its introvert world into the public arena.

In 30 years Nureyev pushed back the boundaries of the impossible. Because he was a unique dance artist, the stature of dance was enhanced. For him and his legacy the lights do not dim. The curtain does not fall.