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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Rudolf Nureyev

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I don't know much about him, but I read that Rudolf Nureyev started ballet at age 11, which is often considered late (though I've heard that male dancers often have an easier time catching up).  When I brought this up in a discussion about late starters, a person said that Nureyev had admitted himself that he had technical faults (more so than the average professional).  I was wondering if anyone could verify this claim, and if so, why did he come to be known as one of the greatest male dancers?

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Mr. Nureyev began the study of classical dance 1 year later than other children who were living in the Soviet Union, now Russia, at the time. One may enter a professional ballet school in Russia at age 10. He was from Ufa, a remote city in the Urals, I believe. He studied character dance and later classical ballet. He went to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg to enter the class of the famed pedagogue, Alexander Pushkin. Might I suggest you read the young people's book, The Dancer Who Flew. It is written by Linda Mayburduk Alguirre, who Mr. Nureyev at National Ballet of Canada in the 1970s.

Mr. Nureyev was most noted for his theatrical flair. His ballet mechanics were not the strongest of the time and having left Russia in the early years of his performing career, he was always lacking in the continuation of the strong classes he would have had had he not defected. 

He became known as one of the strongest male dancers because of his theatrical flair on and off the stage. He was a real entertainer. He was able to appeal to both men and women who had little interest in ballet of his time. He brought movie star status to the male ballet dancer outside of the Soviet Union.

Edited by vrsfanatic
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Oh okay, that makes sense.  Thanks!  And thanks for the book suggestion, I'll check it out.

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I watched 'The White Crow' which is a biopic of Rudolph Nureyev at the movies last year and found it so fascinating that I'm reading Julie Kavanagh's biography of Rudolph which inspired the movie. It's almost 700 pages so very comprehensive but well researched with an extensive list of sources, references and quotes.

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Wow, that looks very interesting.  Thanks for the recommendation!

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  • 6 months later...

I would like to quibble a little with vrsfanatic's statement about Nureyev not reaching the heights he might have if he had stayed in Russia.  The training that the defecting Russian dancers received in the UK, America and Europe was different from the Vaganova training they would have continued training in had they not defected, but it influenced them in other positive ways.  Russian male dancers were trained in those days to cover huge stages and jump tremendously high - this tended to bulk up their muscles.   In the West their muscles were streamlined and they developed far neater and may I suggest better placed and controlled technique .  This happened with Baryshnikov too. I once showed Galina Panov a video I had of Baryshnikov before he defected and I remarked on his bulky thighs.  She confirmed it was the training then. The combination of the different training systems was in fact very effective.  Equally, the Soviet dancers brought new dimensions to the Western training.  I was training at the Royal Ballet School when Nureyev sprang into our lives.  Certain aspects of our training changed under his influence.  For just one small example I can tell you that we had always done chassé coupé chassé before a grand jeté en tournant (entrelacé?).  After Rudi arrived we were taught to do three long runs to give us more push into the jump!   He may not have been perfect compared to the expectations of technique today, but this was what? 55 years ago?  He had such animal magnetism on stage and was considered quite exceptional by the critics of the time.  I am sure he would have danced differently had he remained in the Soviet Union, but whether he would have been better than he became in the West is a moot point.  He was influenced and an influencer and a great character!  We  students were taken to see a stage rehearsal with him, but he had a tantrum, took off his shoes and threw them across the stage!  I honestly can't  remember if the rehearsal continued after that, but I've never forgotten that!

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