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Rudolf Xämät ulı Nuriev , also known as Rudolf Jamétovich Nureyev (note that his name is Rudólf, not Rúdolf; in Cyrillic Рудольф Хаметович Нуреев; March 17, 1938 – January 6, 1993) was a classical dancer born in the Soviet Union, considered by many critics as one of the best dancers of the twentieth century.
He was born on a train near Irkutsk, while his mother was traveling from Siberia to Vladivostok, where his father, a Red Army commissar of Tartar origin, was stationed. He grew up in a village near Ufa, in the Republic of Bashkortostan. As a child he was encouraged to dance Bashkir folk dances, being a precociously featured dancer.
Due to the interruption of the Soviet multicultural life caused by the Second World War, Nureyev could not start his studies in a good ballet school until 1955, when he was sent to the Vagánova Ballet Academy, dependent of the Kírov Ballet in Leningrad. . Here he was a pupil of the famous ballet master Aleksandr Pushkin. Despite his late start, he was soon recognized as the most talented dancer the school would have seen in many years.
After two years Nureyev was already one of the best-known Russian dancers, in a country where ballet was venerated and where dancers became national heroes. Shortly after, he already enjoyed the exceptional privilege of being able to travel outside the Soviet Union, as when he danced in Vienna at the International Youth Festival. Not long after, due to his behavior, he was not allowed to travel abroad again, limiting his performances to tours in the Russian provinces.
In 1961 his life changed. Kirov’s main dancer, Konstantin Sergueyev, suffered an accident and Nureyev was chosen to replace him in Paris. There, his performance impressed the public and the critics. But Nureyev broke the rules in terms of associating with foreigners. Realizing that he probably would not be allowed to travel outside the Soviet Union after this occasion, on June 17 of that year he requested political asylum while at the Paris-Le Bourget airport. Years later, secret KGB archives made public by Peter Watson, revealed that Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev personally ordered the murder of Nureyev. [Citation & required]
A week later, Nureyev had already been hired by the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas and was performing in The Sleeping Beauty with Nina Vyroubova. Nureyev became a celebrity instantly in the West. His dramatic desertion and exceptional talent made him an international star. This gave him the power to decide where and with whom to dance.
His desertion also gave him the personal freedom that had been denied him in the Soviet Union. During a tour in Denmark he met Erik Bruhn, a dancer ten years older than him, who would become his lover, his best friend and his protector (mainly of his own madness) for several years. The relationship was stormy due to Nureyev’s sexual promiscuity, but the couple remained united.
At the same time, Nureyev met Margot Fonteyn, the leading British dancer of his time, with whom he had a professional and friendly relationship. She introduced him to the Royal Ballet in London, which would become her base of operations for the rest of her artistic career.
Nureyev was immediately requested by filmmakers, and in 1962 he made his film debut in a version of The Sylphs. In 1976 he represented Rudolph Valentino in Ken Russell’s film, but Nureyev had neither the talent nor the temperament to devote himself to film. He began with modern dance in the national ballet of the Netherlands in 1968 and in 1972, Robert Helpmann invited him to a tour of Australia with his own production of Don Quixote, making his directorial debut there.
During the 1970s, Nureyev appeared in several feature films and toured the United States in a revival of the Broadway musical The King and Me. It is considered that his appearance in the program The Muppets Show, then in trouble, prompted the program to become an international success. In 1983 he was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet, where in addition to acting as director he also continued to dance. In spite of his advanced illness towards the end of his position, he worked tirelessly producing some of the most revolutionary choreographic works of his time.
Nureyev’s talent and charm caused him to be forgiven many times, but fame did not improve his temper. He was remarkably impulsive, temperamental, unreliable and rude to whom he worked. Among those who frequented, are characters such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury and Andy Warhol, and had little time for the rest. At the end of the 1970s, after their 40 years of age, these ups and downs of character were accentuated, probably when they realized the decline of their physical strength.
When AIDS appeared in France around 1982, Nureyev, like many other French homosexuals, ignored the seriousness of the disease. He allegedly contracted HIV during the early 1980s. For several years he simply denied that he had any problems with his health. When, around 1990, his illness was evident, he attributed it to other health problems and refused to accept the treatments then available. [Quote required]
Finally, he had to accept the fact that he was dying. He won the admiration of many of his detractors for his courage during this period, and continued to appear publicly despite his physical deterioration. In his last appearance, in 1992 at the Palais Garnier in Paris, Nureyev received an exciting ovation from the public. The French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, presented him with the largest cultural trophy in France, the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. He died months later, at the age of 54, in the city of Paris.
He was buried a few days later in the cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, on January 13, only twenty meters from the grave of the choreographer Serge Lifar. These two dancers and choreographers have been the only artists of the so-called Russian ballet school to direct the ballet of the prestigious Paris Opera.
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