25 years since Rudolf Nureyev

January 8, 2018 by norman lebrecht


The greatest male dancer of the second half of the 20th century died of Aids on January, 6, 1993.

Nureyev possessed, in addition to phenomenal technique and an infallible memory for Russian traditions, a unique force of personality that placed him perpetually at the centre of events.

He never needed publicity. Fame followed him like dust behind a prairie herd.

We have never seen his like again. Perhaps we never will.

Comments (21)

  1. Sue says:

    I make it 22 years but, hey, what would I know? I got his autograph is 1972 on a portrait of him I had bought, having met him backstage after a ballet. I threw it out in 1981 when I was cleaning up. Ouch!!!

    1. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      According to most sources, he died in 1993 on January 6: 25 years ago.

      1. Sue says:

        My errant mathematics!! I loved this dancer and I don’t think anybody has ever equalled him in terms of stage presence and charisma. Much missed.

    2. Dominic Stafford says:

      Nureyev died in 1993. I was at his memmorial service.

    3. Jaybuyer says:

      Reminds me, I was gobsmacked when Shostakovich visited the Edinburgh Festival in 1962? and sent me (on request, in my feeble Russian) an autograph. Lost in various house moves!

  2. John Borstlap says:

    I’m not a dance expert, but I did not find RN a very good dancer: everything over the top, rude expression, lacking elegance, just not very refined and thus not very classical. And apart from the stage work, he seemed to be a rather distasteful person. Dancers like, for instance, Roberto Bolle, are much more artful:

    1. Sue says:

      People forget what classical ballet was like before Nureyev strode onto the stage; it was always the men who took the supporting roles and the women who were predominant. Frankly, I never liked Fonteyn and I don’t know why so many raved about her; looking today at some of her dancing you can see her limited technique – especially when compared with today’s young female stars – or even Natalia Makarova. I always found Fonteyn stilted and humorless. Compare and contrast:

    2. Aisha Zikria says:

      Who the hell are you to judge Nurivre ? After you stated you are Not a dance expert . You ignorant mule ,

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Even ignorant mules can have correct impressions, and sometimes they may suffer from entirely correct observations, because mules have a strong sense of aesthetics. It’s an evolutionary attainment, to protect the species from entirely misconceived attacks from other, less developed species.

        And the comparison with Bolle is ample proof of mulistic consideration.

  3. Nick2 says:

    I saw him only once, in Vienna with Fonteyn in Giselle. The most stunning example of his stagecraft came not with his dancing but with an entrance from up stage right in Act 2. With a long trailing cloak, he walked slowly down and across the stage before nearing the front and releasing the cape. It was utterly mesmerising. I suspect a number of actors could have achieved something similar but I know of no other ballet dancer.

  4. Myron Johnson says:

    I was fortunate enough to have seen him in person several times in Paris. He was indeed “a force”. His presence was not something that could be captured on video or film. He opened up a world for us young male dancers. I also saw him at the Continental Baths in NYC. He was “a force” both on stage and off.

  5. Sue says:

    This was the ‘dream team’, IMO, compared to Fonteyn and her much younger partner Nureyev.

  6. M2N2K says:

    Of course RN had a superb classical ballet technique and strong stage presence, but for my taste, because of huge range of expression and wide variety of styles in which he excelled, the equally skilled and charismatic Mikhail Baryshnikov was a far superior dancer in his prime which was quite long by balletic standards.

    1. Sue says:

      Have to agree with you about the delicious Mischa!!!

    2. John Borstlap says:

      True, as this short video demonstrates:

      1. M2N2K says:

        Here starting at 2:25 (please forgive inferior quality of the picture and sound) is a performance that neither RN nor anyone else but MB was ever capable of: .

  7. Linda McDougall says:

    In Montreal, many years ago, I was given second row seats two nights in a row to see Nureyev and Fonteyn, and I was so mezmerized by the lion-like Rudolf, so enchanted the way he came down hard on the stage after a leap, and so transformed by his art, that I can’t remember if it was Romeo and Juiet, The Sleeping Beauty or anything else! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, obviously – for he died too soon, but watching such genius at a young age shifted something in me and I was never the same. Hypnotized, I guess…

    1. M2N2K says:

      You can’t remember which ballet it was because essentially he always performed the same one role – that of the “Great Dancer Rudolf Nureyev” – instead of the character he was supposed to portray.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Stabbing a cherished artistic impression.

        1. M2N2K says:

          Yes I know it was rather cruel of me. Saying “truth hurts” is probably appropriate in this case.

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