Nureyev: The Life

Nureyev: The Life

by Julie Kavanagh

With Nureyev: The Life, Julie Kavanagh shows how his intense drive and passion for dance propelled him from a poor, Tatar-peasant background to the most sophisticated circles of London, Paris, and New York.

Nureyev spent the rest of his life breaking barriers: reinventing male technique, crashing the gates of modern dance, iconoclastically updating the most hallowed classics, and making dance history by partnering England s prima ballerina assoluta, Margot Fonteyn--a woman twice his age.

But Nureyev also made it his mission to stage Russias full-length masterpieces in the West.

Sex, as much as dance, was a driving force for Nureyev.

From his first secret liaison in Russia to his tempestuous relationship with the great Danish dancer Erik Bruhn, we see not only Nureyevs notorious homosexual history unfold, but also learn of his profound effect on women--whether a Sixties wild child or Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill or the aging Marlene Dietrich.

Among the first victims of AIDS, Nureyev was diagnosed HIV positive in 1984 but defied the disease for nearly a decade, dancing, directing the Paris Opéra Ballet, choreographing, and even beginning a new career as a conductor.

Drawing on previously undisclosed letters, diaries, home-movie footage, interviews with Nureyevs inner circle, and her own dance background, Julie Kavanagh gives the most intimate, revealing, and dramatic picture we have ever had of this dazzling, complex figure.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Biography
  • Rating: 4.14
  • Pages: 782
  • Publish Date: October 2nd 2007 by Pantheon
  • Isbn10: 0375405135
  • Isbn13: 9780375405136

What People Think about "Nureyev: The Life"

Im a lover of classical ballet, and decided a couple of years ago to read and collect dance biographies. They go out of print quickly, so when I had the opportunity to lay my hands on Julie Kavanaghs biography of the great Rudolf Nureyev, I grabbed it. Some of the sources obviously didnt know Nureyev well, and my conclusion was Kavanagh could have used a good editor. I knew he had a great dance partnership with Royal Ballets Margot Fonteyn.

After reading this book, things I respect about Nureyev: 1. I had heard stories from former teachers about how no one had ever seen someone who worked harder than Nureyev in class, and the book confirmed that impression.

To her credit, Ms. Kavanagh does delve into the dancer's creative processes, his singleminded passion for his work, his parterning with ballerinas and dedicated mentoring of young dancers. (Early in the book, she makes the bewildering assertion that the dancer became gay during his teen years at the Kirov Ballet School as a consequence of his affair with his mentor's middle-aged wife -- such insight.) Ms. Kavanagh was in desperate need of a discerning editor.

This is quite a long book and naturally some of it is taken up with balletic details which I see bore some readers. Some years later I accompanied a friend to a performance of Giselle with Rudolf Nureyev not long after hed burst into the West like a volcano and Margot Fonteyn the reigning grande dame of the Royal Ballet, not in Covent Garden but a suburban auditorium. That, if one thinks about it, is difficult enough at the best of times, but Nureyev, as someone said, was like a wild animal let loose in a drawing-room. Spotted by the best teacher in Russia, he was taken into a single room as an adopted son and cultivated, not just in dance but in civilised accomplishments; even though a sometimes rebellious student years later when his mentor had been cruelly punished by the Soviet authorities for his protégés defection, the ruthlessly ambitious Nureyev wept bitterly in secret on hearing of his masters disappointed death.

By the end of the book however I felt as if I "knew" Nureyev personally. By the middle of the book I would tear up whenever something sad happened to him and by the end of the book I was reading through my tears as his life came to a close. And I will continue to be sad that the life of this great man, this great talent and (as I learned) this great teacher was taken from us too soon.

The author does a good job of telling his story in a way that doesn't sound too much like a history book and but it is not an easy read. The book works back and forth between the serious ballet details and the private, intimate moments shared by his friends and family.

Though his drive to dance was always paramount, his personal life was pathetic, using people to get what he wanted, especially with Kenneth near the end of the book, who didn't want him as a lover, despite Rudolph's relentless attention.

If you love ballet and want to learn more about one of its most fascinating stars, I recommend this book.

For nearly two decades he danced with the great British ballerina Margot Fonteyn, twice his age, winning accolades and hearts all over the world on countless world tours. Able to be as gentle as he could be incandescent with anger or capricious in whim this book creates a portrait of a man of great feeling and culture, at once wild and sophisticated.