Rudolph Nureyev

Rudolph Nureyev
Birth Place
Irkutsk, Russia
Date of Birth
17 March 1938
Date of Death
6 January 1993


Rudoph  Nureyev was born on a train journey between Lake Baikal and Irkutsk. His parents were poor and of Asiatic Mongol stock. They did not want their son to take up dancing as a career but he persisted and began dancing with amateur folk dance groups and the Ufa Opera Ballet while still a young teenager. At 17 he entered the Vaganova Choreographic Institute in Leningrad and studied under Alexander Pushkin. He was soon recognized as the most gifted dancer the in the school and it was no surprise that after three years training he joined the Kirov Ballet as a soloist.

Within two years Nureyev was one of Russia's best-known dancers. He soon traveled abroad and danced in Vienna at the International Youth Festival. However soon afterwards he was told he would no longer be allowed to travel abroad. In 1961, however, his luck changed. Konstantin Sergeyev, the Kirov's leading male dancer, was injured and Nureyev was selected to replace him in a performance in Paris. Paris was ecstatic over his performances but he broke Soviet rules by mingling with foreigners. Warned that he was to be sent home he defected on 17 June 1961 at Paris Airport.

Within a week Nureyev was signed to western ballet companies. His outstanding skill, his good looks and the dramatic way he defected made him an international star. Dancing both for British and French ballet companies his reputation soured. He was however a difficult person to work with and his personal relationships were often stormy.

By the late 1970s he had moved into his 40s and realized his amazing physical prowess was in decline. With this decline the flaw in his character became more noticeable. When AIDS appeared in Europe in the early 1980s Nureyev, like many French gay men, took little notice. At some point during this period he contacted HIV. For many years he denied that there was anything wrong with his health. By 1990 it was clear that he was ill but he claimed he had several other ailments. Finally he had no other choice but to admit to the fact that he was dying. He continued to struggle through public appearances and at his last in 1992 he received a standing ovation. He died a few months later, aged 54.


What is art? It is not just nature, it is nurtured nature. It is intelligence applied to what physical ability you have.

Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration.

A pas de deux is a dialogue of love. How can there be conversation if one partner is dumb?

My leg, make it more beautiful.

My feet are dogs.

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