INTRODUCTION BY THE PEOPLE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THIS BOOK
In the pages to come is a collection of reminiscences of a great dancer and outstanding choreographer: Rudolf Nureyev, a man sentenced by fate to live out the most incredible of destinies, a man whose name until only recently was condemned to complete oblivion in the country in which he was born, the USSR. This is the first publication to focus on the "Russian" period of Nureyev's stage career — making it unique among all the other books which have been written about him throughout the world.
It is our hope that this book will be more than just the inevitable memoirs which always appear on the death of a great individual. Those books always seem like a second burial, quietly erasing from memory the true image of someone who once lived, loved and lost. The subject is inevitably canonized and ends up not unlike an exhibit in a museum: perfect in every way, but completely detached from reality. To a large extent, Nureyev had already been canonized in life. For a start, he was the world's most famous dancer, a man who spent a quarter of a century on stage performing an average of some three hundred ballets a year. He took the best of Russian ballet with him to the West and in the process became known to people far outside the realm of' dance. The leading choreographers of his day — Frederick Ashton and Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham and Twyla Tharp, Roland Petit and Maurice Bejart — created ballets exclusively for him. And Nureyev himself created his own versions of "Cinderella" and "Romeo and Juliet", as well as updating numerous classical ballets. In his lifetime, Nureyev became a living monument to himself; ironically, this only happened in the West. In Russia, an entirely different thing happened. With the exception of ballet enthusiasts in Petersburg, Moscow and his native Ufa, it's doubtful whether anyone else ever heard of him. And it continued to be that way right up until his death. Although there was press coverage when he returned to Leningrad in 1989 to dance on the Kirov stage one last time in Lovenskjold's "La Sylphide", Nureyev was at this point seriously ill. So the new generation of balletomanes — who had come to see a living legend — unfortunately witnessed all but a shadow of his former greatness. It was a far cry from the dancer we had known in the late 1950's and early 1960's.
luckier. We saw Nureyev on stage when he was still a student at the Leningrad Ballet School. (A. Ya.
There seems to be a popular belief that Nureyev only became a great dancer in the West. This view is widespread both in Western journalism and, after Nureyev's death, in our own press. "We know from first-hand knowledge that this is untrue and hope that with our collection of reminiscences we can set the record straight. To begin with, when Nureyev requested political asylum in France in 1961, he was already a well-established dancer and a star of the Kirov Ballet. By then, he had danced every major ballet role and already had an army of fans and followers. Most important of all, he possessed even at this stage in his career an immaculate ballet technique and inimitable "St. Petersburg" stage presence that was to bring him fame and recognition as one of the greatest dancers — if not the greatest dancer — in the world.
It was due to his Russian ballet training that Nureyev was able to so quickly assimilate in the West all the technically demanding parts he took on and at the same time remain in such great physical shape, in spite of his punishing workload and hectic life-style. And it was his knowledge of Russian ballet traditions that brought him such success in every area of dance he pursued. Last but not least was his talent, which had always been evident even in his early years at the Leningrad Ballet School. He was a star from the moment he first appeared on the Kirov stage, catching the public's imagination by the sheer extent of his talent. Proof of this talent is found in the enormous number of ballet reviews written about him at the time.
Nowadays, there's nothing unusual for such a large amount of articles to be written about an artist; but, in those days, performers weren't given so much attention by the press. Nevertheless, Rudolf was lionised in such publications as "Teatralnaya Zhizn" (Theatre Life), "Neva", "Smena" (Young Guard) and even "Izvestiya" (News), while the prominent ballet critics V. Krasovskaya and V. Chistyakova devoted entire articles to him. Long, contentious pieces appeared in magazines everywhere; he was both lauded and censured-. In short, Nureyev was at the center of Leningrad's theatrical life. And, strange as it now seems, journalists referred to him as a "master of dance" without making any reference to his early years or to the fact that he had only begun studying ballet very late in life. When all is said and done, one has no choice but to acknowledge that Nureyev was a remarkable phenomenon in the history of our culture, a widely acclaimed artist who carved out a name for himself not only in Leningrad but also throughout all of Russia.
Loved he definitely was, but only up until June 16,1961, the day he defected to the West. This attitude was, however, only to be expected in the political climate during that period. If you were so blind you couldn't see how lucky you were to live and work in the country of "victorious- socialism", then you had no right to be-considered a Soviet citizen, much less an artist of the USSR. So Nureyev was put on trial and sentenced in absentia to seven years' imprisonment — a sentence, by the way, which to this day still stands. But the worst was yet to come. First there appeared a number of defamatory articles in various publications, such as the one in "Kommunist". Then sadly, not even Serge Lifar (who was the artistic director of Paris Opera at the time) could resist pressures from the Kremlin to denounce Nureyev. Not long after that, Nureyev's name was condemned by the State to be forgotten forever.
His name was removed from the list of honor graduates at the Leningrad Ballet School, as well as from all ballet periodicals published in the USSR. A book about the Kirov which contained an article on Nureyev was even withdrawn from circulation and all future copies were printed without any mention of him. If a ballet magazines sent from abroad contained Nureyev's photograph, they would arrive on your doorstep with his image pasted over. And so, thanks to the painstaking efforts of the authorities, Nureyev was completely forgotten in Russia. Believe it or not, his name — which had been misspelled in the "Kommunist" article — proved to be so unfamiliar to the public that when it became possible several years ago to once again utter it, there was hardly one publication )r television program that managed to spell the name correctly. In place of Nureyev, all we read was "Nuriyev".
[n the West, Nureyev will always be remembered as a genius of dance. Yet, in his native land, he was forgotten. Even when Russians at long last once again discovered him, there were no fresh attempts to review his talent or discern his genius. The result was that instead of having the Rudik that we knew — brilliant, complex, contradictory, indefatigable— all the Russian public had was a lifeless foreign idol with a misspelled surname.
Alas, Rudik is no longer with us. To coincide with the anniversary of his death, i number of television programs and newspaper articles are currently being prepared in which the producers are relying largely on Western sources for their material. But we've tried to do things differently here. We didn't want to create m epitaph for Rudik's grave. Our aim is to bring him back to life — if only for a brief time — so that he could once more be the Rudik that we knew. [n the following pages, we '11 describe events we were a part of in Leningrad during the years 1955 to 1961 — many of which appear in print for the first time. We have, however, made one self-imposed stipulation: since there exist several versions of the events surrounding his defection and his reasons for requesting political asylum, we prefer to leave the last word on this matter to Nureyev himself. In this regard, we've decided to include in this book an excerpt from his 1962 autobiography about that incident — an incident which changed our lives almost as much as his own. The subsequent chapters consist of reminiscences not only by those who studied and worked with him, but also by his friends and fans, [n the latter pages, we've reprinted several Soviet newspaper articles and ballet reviews which appeared before his defection, along with the defamatory article in ‘’Kommunist’’ and Serge Lifar's shameful piece in "Izvestiya" which appeared after his defection.
The people who compiled this book wish to express their heartfelt gratitude to F.I. Rokkhind for helping to put this compilation together and for allowing us to use so many photographs from her personal collection. We would also like to thank A..I. Bor, T.I. Zakrzhevskaya, V. Korolkov, Yu. L. Ryvkina, L.P. Myasnikova and the Romankov family for permitting us to reprint photographs from their collections. And we would also like to thank Joan Acocella for allowing us to reprint her 1993 VOGUE interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Maude Gosling for allowing us to reprint a chapter from "NUREYEV: An Autobiography with Pictures". We're eternally grateful to N.B. Filippova for heroically word-processing all of the original manuscripts. And for this English-language edition, we would like to thank Wallace Potts for reviewing the English translation. And so before you is the fruit of our labors: a tribute to our dear friend. Our hope is that he will never again be forgotten and that through these pages he will live once more and smile radiantly upon you.
It is article from the book " Three years