Log in

Rudolf Nureyev
'Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration.'
Recent Entries 

Jun 23, 2015 article by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky may be read here.

Nureyev at The American Ballet Theatre School, 1962 (Getty Images) - A.V. Club

11th-Jun-2015 06:39 pm - From the de Young Exhibit in 2012

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.'

17th-Mar-2015 05:10 am - Today is Rudi's birthday

Since you can never have too many pictures of Mr Nureyev, I will post this one I found at the Regent House Gallery.

Original early 1970s photograph of Rudolf Nureyev by London based American photographer Leslie E Spatt from the collection of Joan Hargreves ARCA, DA, NDD 1920-2006. Taken during the production of Jerome Robbin’s ‘Dancers at a Gathering’. (Right-click and view image for slightly larger size.)

22nd-Feb-2015 07:07 pm - Official Nureyev page on Facebook

At Facebook, the official Rudolf Nureyev page is here: https://facebook.com/Fondation.Rudolf.Nureyev. You can like the page and subscribe to its posts.

Once in awhile the page posts very nice photos of Rudi. Here is one from today. Right-click image to view larger size. :)

21st-Jan-2015 09:43 pm - Nureyev and Me

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

17th-May-2013 11:25 am - Cecil Beaton and Rudolf Nureyev 1965

Photo by David Bailey from the album of Nureyev photos collected by Svetlana Borey on Facebook and shared by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Official Page on Facebook. There are many more beautiful photos in Svetlana's album. :)

web counter
This page was loaded Nov 27th 2015, 1:34 pm GMT.