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Post: The paradise life and tragedy of Nureyev: escape to Europe and an unexpected return


MOSCOW, March 17 – RIA Novosti, Pavel Surkov. Rudolf Nureyev’s “Breakthrough to Freedom” caused a worldwide sensation. But France was in no hurry to provide shelter to the ballet star, and she herself yearned for her homeland. In Moscow and other cities of Russia these days are “Nureyev seasons”. The choreographer and conductor would turn 85 on March 17.

“Traitor to the Fatherland”: escape from the USSR to Europe

On June 16, 1961, the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theater troupe, the main ballet troupe of Leningrad, went on tour in Paris. Among the artists who came to conquer the French capital was the world-famous dancer Rudolf Nureyev.

The omnipotent KGB did not want to include him in the tour group, but the host insisted that he come.

Rudolf Nureyev conducts the Boston Ballet at the Don Quixote rehearsal - RIA Novosti, 1920, 03/07/2023
Rudolf Nureyev conducts the Boston Ballet at the Don Quixote rehearsal

Nureyev walked the streets in Paris with his French colleagues and somehow viewed the capital of a capitalist country suspiciously. Authorities ordered that he be removed from the tour and sent back to the Soviet Union.

Nureyev refused to return, moreover, he sought political asylum.

The French press called it a “leap to freedom”. Well, at home, Nureyev’s act was considered a betrayal. There was a big scandal: for the first time a Soviet artist of this level decided to stay abroad.

This meant a complete and final break. Nureyev became perhaps the most famous “fugitive” in the history of the USSR.

Still from the movie Rudolf Nureyev.  island of your dreams
Shot from the movie “Rudolf Nureyev. The Island of Your Dreams”

France’s Denial: Getting Around Europe

His life abroad was not so cloudless: France refused political asylum, he was forced to go to Denmark, then to Great Britain, then to Austria. Nureyev was no stranger to moving: artists often traveled constantly.

He worked tirelessly: he not only performed, but also performed performances himself, even starred in films. The lead role in the movie “Valentino” is the most successful.

Nureyev showed an excellent sense of humor: for example, on the famous Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy performed a duet with a pig-baby from Swan Lake.

When he was invited to head the Paris Grand Opera in the 1980s, he started doing everything on his own terms.

He actively promoted young people, gave them the main roles. This, of course, angered the venerable stars, who were abundantly present in the group.

But Nureyev immediately declared that he did not intend to focus on any hierarchy of soloists. He distributed the roles primarily according to the talent of the artist.

Paris Grand Opera building.  Archive photo - RIA Novosti, 1920, 03/07/2023
Paris Grand Opera building. archive photo

Homeland homesickness: return to Ufa in 1985

Nureyev tried to contact his relatives, who remained together, especially his mother. He even once asked one of the high-ranking people to include Ufa, where his mother lived, in the program of an official visit to the USSR, in order to forward a letter. And he succeeded.

The USSR government allowed the dancer to come to the country in 1985 for only three days. The situation was tragic: the mother was dying. She didn’t even know the son sitting next to her these days. Nureyev did not meet with any of his former friends and colleagues: they were forbidden to do so.

For the first time, a charity marathon will be held in Ufa - RIA Novosti, 1920, 03/07/2023
Aid marathon will be held in Ufa for the first time

The only female ballerina, apart from her mother, who was very dear to her, Margot Fontaine, died of cancer. Nureyev paid his medical bills to the full and was constantly at his side, complaining that he did not marry her. Maybe then, he said, “both of our lives would have been more successful.”

The star is fading: HIV killed Nureyev

At that moment, Nureyev himself was already on the verge of life and death: in 1983 he learned that he was HIV-positive.

The artist weakened every year, could not dance and even performed. But she still continued to work – she learned to conduct the orchestra, to conduct it. She could not imagine her life without music.

The tomb of the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev in the Sainte-Genevieve de Bois cemetery in the suburbs of Paris - RIA Novosti, 1920, 03/07/2023
The grave of the ballerina Rudolf Nureyev in the cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve de Bois in the suburbs of Paris

Rudolf Nureyev died in 1993 and found his last refuge in the Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois cemetery, where many Russian immigrants are buried.

Rudolf Nureyev, ballet dancer, choreographer - RIA Novosti, 1920, 12.03.2023

“Nureyev seasons” began in Russian cities

Source: Ria

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