Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rudolph Nureyev

ballet dancer par excellence

Russian born dancer Rudolph Nureyev (1938-1993) was a last-minute replacement for an injured male star on the Kirov Ballet’s European tour of 1961. Nureyev electrified audiences in Paris and famously defected to the west at Le Bourget airport NE of Paris, with the assistance of French police. He changed the perception of a male ballet dancer’s being only an accessory to female principals.

His muscular, dramatic style of dancing and strengths in both classical and modern dance led to a career in which he attained pop-star fame. He socialized with the likes of Gore Vidal, Freddie Mercury, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol. Gossip about Nureyev’s generous male endowment seems to be validated by this 1961 photograph by Richard Avedon (shown below), taken a month after the Russian star’s defection.

A little-remembered fact is that Nureyev starred as Rudolph Valentino in Ken Russell’s 1977 film Valentino, which was vociferously condemned by the Catholic Church.

His lover for many years was Eric Bruhn, the noted Danish ballet dancer, choreographer, actor and author. Bruhn died in 1986, and Nureyev in 1993, both from complications from AIDS related illnesses.

1 comment:

  1. I think he was the greatest ballet dancer in history, unless Nijinsky had enough time to produce what Nureyev did. I saw him with the Royal Ballet at the Met in 1973, and he was total charisma. But he was not my favourite dancer until recently--by way of an old vhs!

    It's 'An Evening at the Royal Ballet', and begins with Fokine's 'Les Sylphides'. His poetics in all senses of the word--partnering, technique, animal glamour--are in evidence in every moment you see him back then--about 1963. The Chopin Waltzes Fokine used definitely sound better orchestrated than on piano and Fokine only made things even more opulent.

    I had always concentrated on Balanchine and went to NYCB all the time--saw Farrell, Hayden, Verdy, Martins, McBride (she was the best and still my other ballet 'love' besides Nureyev), more recently Nikolaj Hubbe; and there was this sense of chic about NYCBallet when Balanchine was still alive, and the casts weren't announced till the beginning of the week, so a mythological sensation, full of snobbish hype was built up. Not that that was bad--it made things more exciting. But NYCB is absolutely not exciting anymore to me, and forcing Peter Martins to resign with no corroboration of the accusations by jealous ballerinas he didn't take to bed is one of the #MeToo Movement's most appalling mistakes. But
    ultimately, Balanchine really did think 'ballet is woman', and that Suzanne Farrell was 'the ultimate woman'. Peter Martins and Nikolaj Hubbe, both from the Royal Danish Ballet were the only men I saw who stood out as much as the women--and by now, I find Martins much more noble than Farrell in 'Diamonds', where the hype went so far as to say that she was dancing 'the freest woman in the world'.

    Scarcely a day goes by that I don't watch 'Les Sylphides' and his 'Corsaire' with Fonteyn. He had improved immeasurably since the Kirov days, which you see from an old Kirov tape with the similarly fantastic Alla Sizova, perhaps the most virtuosic ballerina I've ever seen. But he had not the sense of 'flying' just yet that he does get when he gets to the Royal and is paired with a venerable, experienced older ballerina who doesn't somehow compete with him. Compete with Nureyev? Sizova is the only one ever to do this, and they had to share a flat and hated each other. Her Aurora on the old Soviet film is the best work I have ever seen besides some of Patricia McBride's Balanchine work. In 'Le Corsaire' with Fonteyn, you see all of his athleticism and hot energy. And then I was shocked to watch Baryshnikov do the same piece with much the same choreography (they do change these things, I'm sure you know, just as they put music for a different 'Jewel Fairy' for Aurora in another production.) I had never really loved Baryshnikov, but having now watched Nureyev every day several times, I could see that Baryshnikov had all the technical mastery, but little of the poetry and musicality that Nureyev had. Part of the NYCB hype was about Farrell's musicality, and there's a lot there, but she is not as musical as Rudolph Nureyev. In person, he was radiating everything, glamour and sensuality--and humour.

    Definitely a god when at his peak, which tragically ended, but I wouldn't doubt at all that he thought his insatiable appetite for homosexuality wasn't worth it.

    There's a lot more to the Farrell