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
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