Some of my memories
I first became acquainted with Rudik just after he had arrived in
There used to be a little music shop not far from the
Lilen'ka and her husband had no children. Perhaps not surprisingly, R. became the object for all their unrequited parental love. But R. was independent and proud. I think he must've been born with that streak of independence and the air of imperial aloofness that he had — which meant that he'd condescend to be helped only if he felt he wasn't being denigrated. He never permitted anyone to feel sorry for him. The desire to help him, yes, that was perfectly all right, foe he felt he deserved to be helped. You see, R. from birth believed that he had been touched the hand of God.
Lilen'ka decided to help him out with 2 things. First, to find a music teacher willing to teach him free of charge. And, second, to find some people Rudik's own age so he'd feel less lonely. To accomplish this, she turned to 2 of her closest friends: M. Savva (a leading pianist at the Maly Opera Theatre) and my mother L. Romankova (matriarch of our household and mother of 3). Marina Petrovna, who taught both at the theatre and also and the music school, immediately agreed to give R. piano lessons. Her quiet beauty and entrancing smile belied her iron discipline. She always got that she wanted out of you, thanks to her gentle and mild persistence.
Not that there was ever any need for persistence when it came to R.. He
practiced feverishly and was extremely music-gifted. Having had a little piano
Alas, so few of there people are alive now. But, at that time, they were
all young and full of life, meeting up with each other to share their common
interests and common adoration of ''our dear boy''. They jealously followed his
every success, attending all his
performance, not only those at the end of his studies but also the ones at the
I had actually seen R. before Lilen'ka told us about him. Being a great
fan of ballet, I not only went to all the
How I loved to hang out with these talented young dancers and follow
their success from year to year. I kept all my programs and still have many of
them at home, bearing the names of dancer who than went on to world fame. R.
wasn't the only gifted young star at the
I once went
with Lilen'ka Pazhi to
one of those
Lilen'ka asked if I could invite him over to my house for one of our
Sunday dinners. I can't quite remember who was present the first day R. came
over. It might have been only our family: my elder sister Marina ( who was just
We ''kid'' were at that age
than you feverishly drink in everything the world has to offer. We studied day
and night, but played sports and went to every exhibition, concert, show and
museum. It was the period of the much-hailed Khrushchev ''thaw'', an
intoxicating and thrilling time in
But back to that Sunday dinner. As I remember it, we sat down to eat around three o'clock in the afternoon, only getting up from the table around 7. My brother and I than invited R. to stay on and talk for a bit. The 2 of us liked R. from the moment we first set eyes on him, for his was completely unlike anyone we ever knew.
Even in those days there was a special aura about R.. He was very
independent, but at the same time modest about himself. Having taken ballet lessons for 8 years
myself, it was especially interesting for me to hear him tell us all about the
That first meeting, which marked the beginning of our long — and sometimes complicated — friendship, is engraved in my memory forever, R. described it in his autobiography published in the West (in 1962), in which, out of consideration for our personal safety, he lists our surname Davidenko in order to confuse the KGB. (My grandfather's surname was Davidenkov.) R. no doubt realized that our friendship wouldn't exactly endear us to the men of the ''First Section''. His autobiography was smuggled to me from the West and I must confess that I enjoyed reading Rudik's reaction to first day together:
Suddenly I felt happy really happy.
''I had spent the evening with my friends the Davidenkos who had invited me to their
apartment for the first time… Nowhere else, up to now, had I ever found such a
tranquil, cultivated atmosphere. My friend and her twin brother were both brilliant
students and both very good-looking: she, very gay, with sparkling black eyes was
a student in elect-ronies…
We had talked about everything and they showed a genune interest in, and a wide
knowledge of, subjects outside their own sphere.
My life, often so meaningless to me, suddenly seemed clearly directed and orientated.
For once, I felt no trace of anxiety.''
The next day R. left for
When we met 28 years later, we reminisced about that evening. R. told me
how he'd envied us for having been born into such a cultured family, surrounded
by books and the opportunity to acquire so much knowledge. To be honest, I
never suspected him of harboring such feelings. Everything that surrounded me
was what had always surrounded me, like the air that I breathed. I never felt
that I possessed any advantage over other. In fact, more often than not, due to
my youthful self-centeredness, I spurned the family experience. R. didn't share
our interest in
polities, although he did follow closely the discussions which always tend to
blaze up whenever 2 Russians get together. Not for anything would he allow
himself to be drawn into a
political debate. Nor would he discuss any topic associated with the running of
our government during an interview with a reporter. I don't think it was of
fear of harming his career in those
About this time a slender, dark-haired beauty from
And even though we were very close friends, he treated my brother with
the greatest respect — which he observed right up until the day he died.
I once had a very unusual conversation with our mutual acquaintance, Slava
Santnaneyev (who had married a Finn and left the
When my husband and I were preparing to set off to see R. in
R. and I knew that it would probably be the last time we ever saw each other again. He was going to his island to die and wanted to do so surrounded by his friends. I, too, was very upset that my brother couldn't come. And although my husband and I did everything in our power to keep R. comfortable, amused and happy. I still think he was secretly disappointed in my brother, and possibly even angry at him. (I'm eternally indebted to my husband for treating R. like he was his own brother, not for a minute jealous off my attachment to him.)
When we knew him back in
himself into the taxi between me and my brother. During the drive, we
intentionally avoided mentioning his mother since we knew the subject was too
painful for him. R. told us that he wouldn't be able to talk about her until he
got back to
''I would read up on absolutely everything connected with the production — its theme, its author, its era. For instance, when I was staging 'Manfred', I read and reread everything I could lay my hands an about Byron and all his works. But I'll never have anything more than individual snippets of information. I'll never have a complete education''. Then he added, ''You know why I never write to anyone? It's because I don't know how a lot of English words are spelled. I've learned every language I know by ear.''
Many people who khew R. said that he was ''nauseating'' because he was prone to sharp outbursts. Bur more often than not, this was nothing more than just a defense reaction. Or, else it came about when he felt someone had encroached on his territory or disturbed him when he was dancing. He similarly couldn't stand it when someone he was working with didn't devote the same attention to dancing that he did. Nevertheless, he wouldn't encroach on someone else's territory. So, you can't really call that having a nauseating character. It's rather more like being obsessed with something, with the result that everything else gets bulldozed out of the way.
years with R., my friends and I were all devoted Anglophiles, mad about jazz
and English literature. Jazz was one interest that R. and I never had in
common, for he was too immersed in classical music. His world of the arts was
that of the 18, not the 20 century. (However, he did respect your right to your
own opinion.) one contemporary
thing which he was instantly infected by was our enthusiasm for learning
English with our tutor. R. had such a thirst for knowledge. (French had always
been taught at the
It was this
knowledge which prevented him from getting lost when he first arrived in
life was regulated by the strict discipline imposed by the
he never missed a single class and he put everything he had into his lessons and rehearsals —, the one thing he couldn't take was outside pressure, especially when it clashed with one of his own ideas.
once told me how, when she and R. were on holidays together in the
So our little group had to walk very lightly when it came to R.. we would immediately rush and try to pour oil on troubled waters whenever things began acting up. But we never really had one single group. Rather, there were actually several, with people going from the one to the other. One group had a definite intellectual inclination while another would be sports-oriented. In the former group, intellect, originality and creativity were respected; in the latter, dexterity, sporting triumph and physical strength dominated. It was obviously mush easier for R. with the sports-oriented crowd, even if the guys there did sometimes make fun of him — claiming that if they ever personally chose to dance on the stage, R. would cease to exist. Next to these guys, R. really did seem small and fragile, for they were all strong, sturdy types. They want in for handball, volleyball and hockey and were all good jumpers. Nevertheless they were amazed that R. could lift up a ballerina so effortlessly. However, they rationalized that it was only because the ballerinas themselves did most of the work and all R. had to do was catch them. One day, they demanded that R. demonstrate his technique by lifting me up above his head on outstretched arms. This he did, and they followed suit. Naturally, they had no difficulties either, proceeding to take turns in lifting me. When it was all over, R. had won their respect. (Anyone who can do something outstanding in sports is always respected.) Thankfully, R. sensed their admiration and forgave them for teasing him.
weekends, we would all travel out of town to Gorskaya where a friend of mine
from the institute — my volleyball teammate, Nata Lavrova — had a
dacha right on the
R. was distinguishable in that he was both with us and yet at the same time not with us, a participant and at the same time an observer. There were moments when I felt that he was quietly studying us all a bit. He would sometimes walk down the shore, away from all the other players, to gaze transfixed at the water and the sun. I don't know why, but one summer day remains imprinted on my memory like a photograph. We had all returned to Nata's dacha, only to discover that R. had disappeared. I was worried and ran back to the shore to see if he was perhaps still lingering there. Although R. wasn't ''my guy'', I felt a certain responsibility for him and always made sure that everything was going O. K. with him and that he wasn't being left out of the general conversation. When I arrived at the shore, I found him there staring out over the horizon. ''R, what are you doing? Everyone's looking for you!'' ''Ssh!'' he whispered. ''Look how beautiful it all is.'' The enormous, dark red ball of a sun was slowly going down behind the gulf, its dying rays forming a crimson path on the water. It really was a fantastically beautiful scene. R. and I stood there in silence, admiring the other-wordly beauty of it all. Eventually, al that remained of the sun was a blood-red segment, then the sky began to darken over. We turned away and, without saying a word, plodded back to the dacha.
But, there were just isolated moments. More often that not, R. would join in the general merry-making, laughing and clowning with us, and generally rejoicing in life. He had an especially enchanting smile, which was very becoming to him. And, even if he was a men of few words, his thoughts were always deep and to the point.
latte 1950's rock-n-roll was just becoming popular in
Everyone of our group was always terribly busy and so we treasured our Sundays together. Once, when we had our hearts and soul set on a lazy Sunday, R. discovered that he was scheduled to dance ''Gayane'' that morning. It was really unfortunate, for the weather had turned out wonderful and the prospect of spending a sunny Sunday morning in a darkened theatre watching a ballet — which we had seen many times before — did not sees terribly attractive. It was then that blue-eyed Lyalik Yanovsky, whose cherubic face looked like something out of a soup commercial, coined what was to become our catchphrase: ''Hang up your tights, R! You're far better off playing rugby at Gorskaya''. Everyone collapsed into fits of laughter on hearing those words and, surprisingly enough. R. didn't take offense with it and joined in. This phrase stuck with R.. Whenever he'd coma to us tired and upset, complaining about same problem he was having, all you had to do say was: ''Hang up your tights, R.'' in order to cheer him up.
Of course, we all ended up going to his performance that day and sunshine could only beckon us after R had appeared on stage. And when he did, you couldn't take your eyes off him. He well-proportioned figure, decked in a sleek black costume, moved about the stage with an al most oriental gracefulness, combining sharpness movement with an animal-like softness. Perhaps this was just the fruit of my childhood fantasies, weaned on illustrations in ''Aladdin And The Magic Lamp''. Or, may by it was the result of my misconstrued ideas about the orient, due to what I'd seen in the theatre. Whatever the reason, R. was in my eyes a man of the East, his bubbling emotion hidden deep down underneath a facade of restraint, ready to burst forth at the moment of ultimate incandescence.
R. never played a role on stage. He lie of the hero himself, infecting everyone with his passion and unassuming authenticity. His performance had the entire theatre spellbound, the audience following his every movement with bated breath.
that came much later. I remember the evening of finals (when R. finished
were unfounded. ''Le
Corsaire'' was a roaring success. Rudik's passion for dancing, his gift for
transforming himself into whatever role he was dancing, his light impetuous
leaps and his ability t appear to hang in the air — which he later used
to conquer the world — gave him what he'd always dreamed of: he was
invited to join the Kirov Ballet. And, not just as a member of the corps de
ballet — at most student normally do after finishing
A room of your own meant a great deal. For most people, that is. But not for R.. One problem was that the apartment was situated a good distance from the theatre. (It's true that the Number 49 bus — which went directly to the ''Mariinka'' — stopped just ten min. walk from the flat, but the bus trip itself took at least 40 min.). another difficulty with Rudik's living in this apartment was that in would than be all up to him to organize his daily life. He would have to do his own washing, cleaning, cooking and shopping — chores that he'd been free of when he was living at the hostel. Remember, all of this took place before the days of labor-saving devices. There was no supermarkets at that time where one trip could suffice for an entire week's supply of food. And, R. was on a modest budget. Also, there was the additional burden of having a working day that began in the classroom at 9 o'clock in the morning and ended at 12 at night. There seemed to be no end to Rudik's problems.
R. never moved
into this flat. His elder sister Rosa arrived in
the 3 years from the time he left
a special place not just on her home — where he was now permanently
ensconced — but also in her heart.
I can't really tell how much X. was capable of giving R. intellectually. She and I weren't exactly close friends, our age difference being too great and our interests too different. Nevertheless, relations between us were cordial. She trusted me with R., clearly realizing that I wasn't planning to lay claims on him. She would even allow him out on his own to see me and my brother. (Sometimes, Lyokha and I ended up being Rudik's ''cover'' so that he could have a little more freedom.)
defected, X. and I become closer — as partners in woe, so to speak.
However, we were never confidantes with each other. Our conversations never
touched on the reasons for or consequences of Rudik's tragic decision to leave
And so, R.
''R. how are things?'' He seemed really down in the dumps, ''Is something the matter?''
''They won't give me anything to dance.'' Came the reply.
This, in a month when he'd already danced two hew parts and was in the process of rehearsing another!
at the Kirov Theatre affected the whole company. His passion for dancing, his
desire to be the best and the fervor with which he set about every task
couldn't help but stir up feelings of jealousy. A highly-charged atmosphere and
the expectation that a momentous event was in store were always present with his performance. Needless to say,
his self-confident air of independence and constant searching for his very own
manner of expression particularly irritated the other male dancers. (Perhaps it
was inevitable when you have youth combined with talent.) In 1988, when I met
to mind an incident in which Bregvadze, the
On the other hand, relations were a lot smoother with the female dancers. Many of them were particularly keen to dance with such an extraordinary partner. However, this desire brought about its own problem. Many talented ballerinas weren't free to choose who they wanted to dance with, since there were a lot of already pairings. Some of these ballerinas were happy with their present partner while others wants to remain with their not-so-talented boyfriends in order to give them a career.
To my scientific mind, R. in those years was a spring under pressure, ins potential energy held in check. When he made it to the West, that pressure was lifted and the spring was released. All that potential energy was converted into kinetic energy and Rudik's genius was free to dazzle the entire world.
he joined the
[ 30 years
later the impossible happen when O. Vinogradov invited R. to dance one more
time on the
Thankfully, all want well during Rudik's first ''Laurentia''. D-ya was in fine form and danced with obvious pleasure. Little needs to be said about Rudik's performance. He was totally immersed in dancing and all these steps he'd spent so long rehearsing were an absolute triumph. He danced ''L'' on 2 more occasions, one with D-ya and the other with A. Shelest. After that, he began rehearsals with Kurgapkina for ''Gayane'', which were nit without fireworks. Either R. had grown more confident after dancing with D-ya, or else Ninel proved to be a match for him when it came to ''artistic temperament''.
I have ho with to bore you by describing every single ballet with R. that I saw or relating to you all my own thoughts and emotions. It's better to leave that to the professionals. But I would like to mention 2 ballets which I believe are especially significant, both in R's execution of them and in the events surrounding then.
involved the arrival in
R. knew all
too well that Semyonova was going to be in the audience that night and
suspected that she might invite him to join the Bolshoi Company. I can only
hazard a guess as to whether he wanted to change companies or not. Throughout
the week leading up to this performance, we plagued him with questions trying
to find out how he felt about moving to
R's performance with I. Kolpakova was simply fantastic. ''Giselle'' is a wonderful ballet and it's not hard to understand why it's been danced in every country for more than a 100 years. Either the sincerity of the young lovers's feelings wins over the hearts of the audience, or its popularity is due to the music, the choreography and the scenery — the drama of the first act juxtaposed against the classical purity of the second. Whatever the reason, this ballet is really ageless and one never tires of seeing it. And, on each occasion that one does, the spectator relives the tragedy of its pitiful heroine. Shivers runs down your spine when Giselle appears on stage, her hair cascading down over her shoulders, bearing Albrect's sword in her outstretched hands with the intention of committing suicide.
I'll never forget the moment in the second act when Giselle ''flew'' between two rows of Wills, R. holding Irina in an arabesque and hardly allowing her feet to touch the ground. It seemed that Giselle was completely weightless and all that remained of her was her suffering soul. At that instance, Albrecht's impotent anguish was totally manifested through R's dancing as dawn breaks and the Wills return to their graves. R. danced as if he was in a trance, as if he had no conscious control over his movements, lifting his hands weakly and then letting them drop. His leaps began to lose their height and, for one awful moment, I thought he'd either lost his mind or that he was having a heart attack. Life was flowing out of his body right in front of my eyes.
rushed backstage after the show to find out what was wrong, to express my
appreciation of his performance and, of course, to ask if the dreaded offer to
join the Bolshoi had been made.
Thankfully, R. was perfectly all right. His heart was in one piece, and so were
his brains. As far as Semyonova's offer was concerned, all he could remember
was that she had come to him during the interval, but he couldn't recall a
single word of their conversation. Once again, I was astounded by R's ability to so
immerse himself in the role he was dancing that he forgot all about his own
mortal concerns. But, as I later found out, this wasn't quite the case. 30
years later, during post-communist times, I reminded R. of that particular ''Giselle'' and of my fears of losing
The other ballet, in which events during and after are still fresh in my memory, is ''Don Quixote''. This ballet is a real showstopper for a talented dancer, for in this work both one's artistic mastery and dancing technique have ample opportunity to shine. The part appears to constantly gather momentum as the ballet progresses. From the inactive first scenes, when Don Quixote dreams of the beautiful Dulcinea in his half-lit library, the ballet seems to pick up strength during the colorful street dancing and again in the tavern scene, not to mention the inflammatory gypsy dances that take place at the camp where Basil and Kitri have taken refuge. Finally, the full glory of classical ballet is unveiled in the final act's pas de deux and coda. The night I remember so well R. was partnered by Kurgapkina. Their debut fell on an evening in spring, when the whole of our northern city is gripped by a premonition of approaching warm weather and the White Nights Arts Festival (so eagerly awaited after the dark winter months).
in 1960, an American touring company had come to
act disappointed them. The Americans were bored stiff at the sight of Don
Quixote flinging himself about a half-lit stage. During the interval, Lola did
her best to avoid their eyes, afraid that they'd blame her for getting them
into this. The
Meanwhile, there was an almost imperceptible movement down in the stalls, but one that was well-known to the experienced eye. The more fanatical balletomanes were quietly carrying flowers down to the orchestra pit getting ready to throw them to their heroes on stage. The elderly usherettes were supposed to ban all bouquest from the theatre, but some of these women were too soft-hearted or either balletomanes themselves, so they'd often turn a blind eye to violations of the ''flower ban''.
That spring, the Field of Mars (a huge square in the center of town) was a sea of lilacs. But, the ''head-cases'' — those ballet fanatics who never missed a single performance and who formed rival fan clubs for the various soloists — must have picked every last one of them. after Ninel and R's glittering pas de deux, when they'd literally danced their hearts out, the theatre simply exploded with delight as a cascade of flowers rained down onto the stage. It was really a fantastic spectacle. The curtain raised and fell, yet the lilacs continued to pour down from the balcony. As the stage attendants solemnly presented sumptuous bouquets to the performing artists, the whole stage disappeared under a sea of flowers. The Americans went crazy — and who wouldn't at such a fabulous performance! Their former disappointment was quickly forgotten as they jumped to their feet and crazily applauded.
I had arranged with R. that Lola and I would join him after the performance. But, when we arrived at the stage door, we found it mobbed with fans. Lola and I stepped to the side and an exultant R. soon appeared, his arms laden with flowers. Applause and greetings rang out from the crowd as people shoved their programs toward him hoping to get his autograph. He spotted us and fought hid way over, only to be met by our own cries of delight for his performance. Lola began telling him what a wonderful impression he'd made on her. There wasn't any need for translation, for even if R. hadn't known any English, her shining eyes and the expression on her face spoke for themselves. At that point, R. did something which provoked a storm of indignation among his female fans. He presented all the flowers he'd been given to Lola, as if in recognition of own her talent.
I immediately realized how this might offend his female admirers, watching their flowers being given to another woman. I could feel that I was at the epicenter of all this enmity and caught several scornful glances in my direction. I was so shaken at that point that I honestly don't remember how events turned out. Most likely, I desperately searched for a way to apologize for R's lack of diplomacy. And then, either we got into a car and drove off with Lola, or else R. went off with the Pushkins. All I remember is R. received an invitation to dine with the Americans at the Hotel D'Europe. And, when he entered that grand restaurant, the entire touring company — more that a 1000 people — gave him a standing ovation.
It was the first ovation that the Western world ever gave him.
It is article
from the book " Three years at the
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