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Julie Kavanagh's Nureyev Biography


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#1 Helene

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 10:03 AM

On a different thread, ViolinConcerto cited a review by Lewis Segal of the documentary aired by PBS, 'Nureyev: The Russian Years' and a preview of Julie Kavanaugh's upcoming biography, Nureyev: The Life, which addressed the issue of Nureyev and demi-pointe. I've created this thread to discuss the Kavanaugh biography.

leonid wrote

I have just read Segal's article and found the article appalling in tone and much of what he reported that others have said or written unbelievable.
No one wants a hagiography, but historical accuracy must prevail and judgement of someones truth or otherwise when telling a story needs to be applied.
As to KGB files we already know the lies that were spread about Nureyev and others who chose to leave Russia.



#2 bart

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 12:52 PM

Thanks, Helene. I wanted to add that you can pre-order the book on Amazon (cllick the link above). Publication date is supposed to be October 2 in the US.

Segal's take on Nureyev is so emotionaly overwrought and vitriolic ("sociopath") that he creates the impression that Kavanagh is a muckraker who has raked quite a lot of muck. Whether this is actually the case, we'll find out when the book appears. In the meantime, links to pre-reviews, interviews, etc., would be welcome.

#3 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 01:42 PM

Well, Kavanaugh's already gone into grand detail about Ashton's sex life, so why not Nureyev's? I mean, it tells us so much about what made him a great artist.

It makes one glad not to be famous.

#4 Helene

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 02:45 PM

From Segal's review, it sounds like in his opinion, Kavanaugh doesn't go far enough, and isn't enough of an iconoclast.

I'd rather read what Kavanaugh says, rather than what Segal says she says.

(Kavanaugh's book is also in our "Mini Store" [link under our logo]).

#5 canbelto

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 06:21 PM

Ugh, reading that Segal review made me sick, as it seems to twist every action into proof that Nureyev was a "sociopath." I can't wait to read the actual Kavanaugh biography, although I thought the Solway biography was very well-researched and was satisfied with it.

#6 bart

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 07:11 PM

A tip for those looking for the author on a search engine: it's "Kavanagh" without the "u."

As to the sex and celebrity side of things, they seem much more relevant to Nureyev's biography than they were to poor Frederick Ashton's. Nureyev courted the press and never seemed to have many secrets. His celebrity as a dancer was very much intertwined with his celebrity as a larger than life character and blatantly sexual being.

Nureyev's dancing, it sometimes seemed to me, was actually rather restrained when compared to his behavior off stage. At least we know that Kavanagh will be able to do justice to his public, artistic life, no matter what she ends up saying about his private life..

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 25 August 2007 - 07:30 PM

Thanks for that, bart!

For a view of Nureyev (and Kavanagh's book) that's more judicious than Mr. Segal's, try this one by by Matthew Gurewitsch in today's NYTimes:
The Nureyev Nobody Knows, Young and Wild

#8 leonid17

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 02:11 AM

Well, Kavanaugh's already gone into grand detail about Ashton's sex life, so why not Nureyev's? I mean, it tells us so much about what made him a great artist.

It makes one glad not to be famous.


I would like to know how Nureyev's sex life made him a great artist? I know it made him dead.

#9 leonid17

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 02:47 AM

A tip for those looking for the author on a search engine: it's "Kavanagh" without the "u."

"His celebrity as a dancer was very much intertwined with his celebrity as a larger than life character and blatantly sexual being."

Really did the whole world know about his sexuality? I think not.

Many of his fans were women(so were Fonteyn's) and in the 60's people who went to the ballet in London where he spent a lot of time, were publicly less obsessed with sex and his appeal to gay men at that time seemed very limited.

In the UK in the 1960's at least, the population was only just leaving behind the accepted moral code of the earlier majority. Nureyev's sexuality was not discussed in the press and it was only when his partner, assistant and film maker was seen regularly around, that any such talk really developed among ballet goers. He was frequently photographed with women and there was gossip about him and a member of America's high society and others.

His earlier relationship with Erik Bruhn was known, that was seen to have an aura of romance about it. It was not discussed in sordid or explicit terms in my experience and never reached the press at that time.

Having watched ballet in various countries since 1960 when still at school, it was my impression that ballet-goers were more interested in performances and what was happening next season rather than cheap gossip.

It is quite apparent to everyone that society values have deteriorated and people are now baying for the blood and souls of distinguished people of culture, who made inestimable contributions to many lives.

I think Kavanagh's book on Ashton missed elements of his personality that I had witnessed and that senior members of the Royal Ballet were affronted at much which was said in her biography.

#10 bart

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 05:28 AM

"His celebrity as a dancer was very much intertwined with his celebrity as a larger than life character and blatantly sexual being."

Really did the whole world know about his sexuality? I think not.

Probably not at the time of his defection. And possibly not in all places. But by the latter part of the 60s, in New York City at least, this was widely known among those who attended ballet regularly, and was quite visible if you were in the right part of town.

I don't think it was part of his image in the press, and there were no blogs to obsess about such things and hang the laundry out for all to see.

However, the terms "exotic," "outrageous," and even "glamourous" carried a subtext in those days as they do today. It was fun, not prurient. And there were fewer fundamentalist ministers in the media to remind us how sinful a great deal of life is reputed to be.

#11 Alexandra

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 07:06 AM

By the mid-1970s (when I started being interested in ballet) Nureyev's sexuality was discussed, publicly and privately, although, as has been pointed out, not incessantly. I can remember reading that "pansexuality" was part of his appeal, and one of the first things I read about him, in Ballet Review, was a comment by Violette Verdy (meant in the nicest possible way) that he was a "great big Muslim whore." That said, I agree with leonid that this wasn't the focus of articles in the world before People Magazine. People discussed Nureyev as a dancer. One might ask, "Is he gay?" and get a "Oh, God yes" as an answer, but that was the end of the conversation, at least in my circles. (Nureyev was interviewed by John Gruen for Gruen's gossip book, "The Private World of Ballet" and asked why he wasn't married. His answer was, "Why should I make some girl miserable?" and I think it was taken by many to be a reference to his justly famous temperament.)

I'm looking forward to the PBS special, especially the dance footage :)

#12 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 07:56 AM

i also recall when morley safer interviewed him for 60 minutes, and asked if he regretted not having married and produced little nureyevs and his response was something along the lines of 'and what if they were not as good as me? what would i do with those imbeciles?'

#13 Helene

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 08:09 AM

A tip for those looking for the author on a search engine: it's "Kavanagh" without the "u."

:) Thank you, bart -- I've changed the spelling in the title of the thread.

#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 08:32 AM

"Why should I make some girl miserable?"

That's a very good answer to that question.

#15 Helene

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Posted 26 August 2007 - 09:15 AM

"Why should I make some girl miserable?"

That's a very good answer to that question.

He could have and chose not to, and all would have been well from a public-facing standpoint. And he didn't seem to be interested in finding someone for whom this would be a well-understood bargain, either.


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