Worthy of admiration

                                                                                      Olga Moiseyeva


My first formal meeting with Nureyev was on October 23 rd, 1959. When say ''first formal meeting'', I mean our first time together on stage, as fate had already brought us together many time outside the theatre. R. joined the Kirov in 1958, straight after finishing Ballet School, and was immediately placed in A. Pushkin's class for all the leading soloists. In a way, this was simply a continuation of the path Rudik's career had taken ever since arriving at B. S., where Pushkin had also taught Rudolf.   This meant R. was already acquainted with the discipline required of a truly dedicated ballet dancer long before his arrival at the theatre.


A. Pushkin was both an extremely gifted teacher and a wonderful human being who adored R. and cared for him as if he were own son. Nureyev lived at Pushkin's place and was always made to feel like a treasured and welcome member of the family.  Their relationship was more than just that of an instructor and his pupil. Pushkin always gave everything he had to his young students, so it's not surprising that  he gave the world such brilliant dancers as Nureyev, Vikulov and Semyonov. Later on, at the beginning of the 1960's Baryshnikov would also end up living at Pushkin's, where he too was inducted into the secrets of ballet technique.


As I've said, R. was immediately put into the most advanced class, where he studied alongside Makarov, Bregvadze and the younger Selyutsky and Vikulov. Alexander Ivanovich's classes were always conspicuous  in that they were very well planned and never unnecessarily long, thus sparing one's legs and making the lesson all the more absorbing. Pushkin was, of course, a great teacher and R. was grateful all his live that he'd had the opportunity to work with him. Perhaps he didn't realize it at the time (when he'd just arrived from Ufa), but he soon  grasped how lucky he was and always thanked the hand of fate for bestowing on him such a gift. Like any talented person, Nureyev had a highly-developed sense of intuition and this often helped him out whenever his personal knowledge and experience weren't enough.


Right from his very first day, Nureyev was a well-know figure at the theatre. He was much talked about — mostly about how talented, how original and how very headstrong he was. And the truth is that Rudolf always managed to quarrel with just about everyone, often over the smallest trifles — things that others wouldn't pay any attention to  at all. For example, there's tradition at the Kirov that the youngest in each class, i. e., those newest to the Company, moisten the floor with a watering-can prior to the start of each lesson. (Wetting down the floor is very important for minimizing the friction between the sole of a ballet shoe and the wooden boards.) R. at first flatly refused to water the floor and created quite a scene, before being informed by the others that in was just a tradition at the school. R. had taken it as an insult: the implication being that the youngest meant also being the most inexperienced in the class. R. believed the exact opposite, convinced that his opinion meant that he stood out  from all the others.


R. had a very high opinion of himself, which didn't exactly endear him to fellow dancer. But there was nothing they could do about it. And this high opinion of himself very  often led to conflicts.


But once he become part of Kirov, Nureyev immediately got down to business. His first major ballet was ''Laurentia'' where he was fortunate enough to dance with the leading ballet start of the day. His partner was Dudinskaya herself and the Comendador was played by B. Shavrov.

Yes, it was a great stroke of luck for R. that he was able to perform with such wonderful dancers. From experience, I know demanding the ballet ''L'' is and simply rehearsing  it is an education in itself (even if my own standards could never compare to those of Shavrov, Dudinskaya and the other  for whom this ballet was designed). I think it must've  meant a lot to R. that his ballet career got off to such an illustrious start.


Next came ''Gayane''. And then, following on their success in ''L'', Dudinskaya requested Nureyev to dance ''La Bayadere'' with her at the start of the upcoming season. This ballet was very well-suited  to Rudolf. He and Natalia spent long time rehearsing it and no last-minute cast changes were ever allowed with Dudinskaya . No matter what, Dudinskaya always performed her roles; for her not to appear on stage would've taken something really out of the ordinary. Although I was her stand-by, I knew this about D. and never thought for a minute that my services would be required. That day, I was in  rehearsal studio until 3 o'clock in the afternoon before heading home. I just arrived at my house and flopped into a chair when the phone rang. ''Get over to the theatre as fast as you can. You're dancing ''La Bayadere' tonight.'' ''No, I'm not. I can't dance 'Bayadere','' I said. ''Why not?'' Because I can't dance with Nureyev,,'' I replied. ''I've never so much as shaken his hand. How can I go on with a new partner and dance an entire ballet without even running through it once?'' ''We don't care,'' came the reply. ''Sergeyev  says you have to. He's sending a car for you, so you'll just have to come!'' And so, before I knew it, they picked me up, brought me to the theatre, smeared make-up on me, dressed me and pushed me out onto the stage. I think a miracle must've taken place that night. Rudolf and I danced as if we were floating on air, without a single hitch.


Nowadays, some of R's partners who either danced or took class with him say that he held them badly. Speaking for myself, I can only say that we danced ''La Bayadere'' without even one rehearsal and it went like a dream. It was a great success and I remember Nureyev's fans who were waiting at the stage door, telling me, ''You're a brave women!'' and it's true that no one — least of all, I had expected things to come together so well. R.  gave a whole new slant to the role of Solor. Before him, male dancers had always performed the  Kingdom of the Shadows wearing wide trousers and dancing on low half-points. He was the first to dance this role using high half-points and it gave the impression that his legs and body were much longer than they actually were. (Later on, he extended this innovation — never tried before in Soviet ballet — to other roles as well.) R. was also the first to introduce a high passé into his pirouettes. He wore tights and had a stunning blue costume made for the final act of ''La Bay.''. he seemed to fly like the wind across the stage, in search of the Shadows and in search of his love. There was something almost demon-like  about him, as if he himself had arisen from  some mystical spirit kingdom. I found it all very vivid and delightful.


Rudik was also the first to do а double circular assemble in the соdа. After he did it, other dancers began to copy him. But Nureyev had one big advantage over them: form. Rudolf had perfect stage form. I rate him very highly as а dancer. It' s

my belief that he raised ша1е dancing in the world of ballet to new heights and, most important of all, introduced this whole new concept of form. Not that 1 rate an artist purely on the height of his half-points or his outstretched knees or his

pretty twirls. But Rudik possessed within his soul an unbelievable obsession for perfectionism, а constant desire to do the extraordinary, а yearning to fly up, up and away...

Maybe he lacked а classical education, but he always tried. And sometimes, he did in fact соmе across as being а bit absentminded; for ехашр1е, he could easily bring а piano back from а trip somewhere and yet forget his suitcase.

Although he spent а great deal of time developing himself, we shouldn’t forget his talent. Rudik was extremely talented. 1 believe that for an artist, you must have talent in order to get inside а role. Nureyev possessed this quality. It just саmе naturally to him. 1п "La Bayadere" he was а mighty Indian warrior, in "Gayane" he а temperamental Caucasian and in "Swan Lake" — believe it or not — an Aryan. He astounded me as Siegfried. Out from the wings саmе this stylish

gentlemen of high stock, in а white wig. In real life; he was а totally different person, with an uncomplicated face and slightly slanting eyes.

Rudik placed great importance on following the long-held canons associated with each production, maintaining everything just as tradition dictated. We were once rehearsing "Swan Lake" together — which we later performed in Раris to

great success — and 1 asked him to pull mу hand to the side at the end of the Black Pas de Dеuх. At this point in the choreography, there are certain turns en dedans (now replaced by en dehors) and all our ballerinas tended to draw their

hands to the side and turn their legs in order to achieve greater force. So, 1 said, "Rudik, pull mу hand to the side."  "No way," he said. "Do it as it should be done." And funnily enough, our turns саmе out perfect. Nureyev didn't like any

selfish showing оff, particularly on the stage; and he couldn't stand insincerity. Не believed — and 1 completely agree with him — that when there' s hypocrisy in art, then it ceases to be art. If there was something that he didn't quite feel, if

there was ever а mise en scene that he didn't quite follow, then he preferred just to stand there with а vacant expression on his face rather than pretend that he understood and try to bluff his way through.

Rudik danced а lot of parts his three years at the Kirov: Solor in "La Bayadere", Basil in "Don Quixote", as well as Desire, Siegfried and Albrecht. When we began rehearsing "The Legend Of Love, Rudik liked the ballet and brought а lot of originality to the role of Ferhad. Unfortunately just before opening night, he quarreled with Grigorovich, so another dancer ended up rehearsing and performing "Legend" with me. Not that Rudik ever lost hope of dancing it one day. While we were on tour in Paris, he even asked Varya Pestova — who got along well with Rudik and was also from Ufa — to help him choose costumes for the role of Ferhad. That tour got on to а good start and Rudik was given а wonderful reception. His arrival in Paris caused an absolute sensation. I danced "Swan Lake" and last act of "La Bayadere" with him and, to this day,

still геmembег how well he danced, how he shone in his sky-blue costume as he performed his double assemblé. What fantastic form he was in!

But the government agents who accompanied us saw Rudik in an altogether different light: they didn't like his independence and they didn't like his habit of going out and meeting people on his own. And sо when we flew on to London, he was ordered to stay behind and fly back to Moscow. Не bесаmе hysterical at this, wailing and gesturing with crossed fingers in order to make us understand that this was the equivalent of being sent off to prison — in other words, the end.  We all told him: "Don' t worry, the minute we land in London, we' ll go straight to the Embassy. Kolpakova and I will clear everything up. We' ll say that we need you there." And this was the truth. Our opening night ш London was scheduled to bе the last act of "La Bayadere", starring Rudik and myself. Needless to say, we hadn't envisaged any last-minute changes. If Rudik didn't соmе, we' d have to urgently find new people to fill his roles in London. (Incidentally, this was how the career of another great dancer, Sergei Vikulov, started out.) We boarded оur plane and an hour later journalists were already waiting at Heathrow Airport when we arrived: «Nureyev has defected." At first, 1 thought it was just some stunt that he'd pulled. Surely, it couldn't be.

Years have passed. What can 1 say now about Rudik? То mе, his greatest quality was his selfless devotion to ballet, from his head right down to his toes, right up to the day he died. Ballet was his whole reason for living. For him, it was life itself. I геmеmbег how we met many years later ш the mid-1980's at Раris Opera, where he was still artistic director, and I asked him, "Are you still dancing?" He was greatly offended by my question. From my point of view, I realized that he wasn`t а young boy anymore and thought there was nothing criminal in his retiring from the stage. Вut Rudik thought otherwise,

"Don' t you see the terrific shape Гm in?". Although it' s true he was still dancing and taking class, not everything he was doing was perfect. However, his double tour en t’ air from fifth position to fifth position, in either direction, was still brilliant and he was obviously proud of the fact that he could execute а movement many young dancer weren't capable of. Rudik adored the stage and the rehearsal studio. He lived to dance. It was the very air he breathed. Nowadays, 1 tell all young performers: "Соmе on, dance. Dance! Don' t work. Dапce!!!". There was never any need to say that to Rudik. Rehearsals and ballet classes were absolutely sacred things to him. No matter how he felt — even if he' d been out carousing with friends all night — he would still be there the next morning, doing all that was required of him. And on stage, he never gave anything short of а hundred per cent. Choreography, dancing, ballet: those were his reasons for living. And you can' t, 1 don' t think, get much more dedicated than that.


It is article from the book " Three years at the Kirov theatre ". The author of a site thanks L.P.Myasnikova and T.I.Zakrzhevskaja for this gift.         



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