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Dance scape Nureyev.

The hagiographers and the hatchet men have only begun to do their best--or their worst--on the already weathered marble bust of Rudolf Nureyev's reputation. Ten years after his death in Paris at age 54 from AIDS complications--and even mentioning the cause of his death raises the ire of some staunch supporters who insist that his illness had nothing to do with his accomplishments, other than to kill him--the curiosity surrounding his powerful impact on the course of twentieth-century dance remains very much alive. Mention the name Nureyev and people will pay attention: What about Nureyev? What, indeed.

The legends, the business of the hagiographers, begin with his birth: born in a boxcar while his mother was traveling on a train through Siberia; raised in the margins of a nation torn apart by World War II and the Cold War; early recognition in the world-famous school and company of Leningrad's Kirov Ballet; the cloak-and-dagger defection from the touring Kirov in June 1961 on the tarmac in Paris, which ignited a media firestorm that would spook him the rest of his life. The stupendous peaks and precipitous declines of his career were watched closely by fans around the world. His followers included many who had held no particular interest in ballet before Nureyev exploded on the scene. His greatest promotional, professional, and perhaps personal triumphs were made in the context of his partnership with The Royal Ballet's prima, Margot Fonteyn.

He took full peripatetic advantage of the growing opportunities of air travel by jet, and through guest appearances on TV, in films, and almost everywhere else inhabited by humans became a household name in some of the most unlikely places. Part of his lasting legacy was the example he set in the West for generations of young male dancers whom he taught, choreographed for, challenged unmercifully, and made technical demands of such as had never been made before. Based on the remarkable advantage of his own Kirov training, he was an instant and indelible model for the contemporary male ballet dancer.

As the years passed, he never seemed to be able to shake off the remembered splendor of his early years, and his long decline as a performer was watched by many with apologies and sadness. Shortcomings in his own technique, however, were overwhelmed by his spectacular charisma onstage. Offstage, he was a complex construction of contrasts: elegant and coarse, loquacious in his praise and verbally assaultive, outrageously self-centered and impulsively generous, violently explosive and tenderhearted. Right up to the end--the 1992 premiere in Paris of his choreography for La Bayadere--wherever he appeared, he sold out the house. People remember.

Richard Philp is editor in chief emeritus of DANCE MAGAZINE.
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Title Annotation:Biography; Rudolf Nureyev
Author:Philp, Richard
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Previous Article:Natalia Dudinskaya.
Next Article:Attitudes.

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