Helene

Julie Kavanagh's Nureyev Biography

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The problem is, if one thinks descriptions of non-romantic sexual activity are "pernicious", even though these activities were a substantial part of RN's life, this is not a book to read.

Of course that "descriptions of non-romantic sexual activity" can be presented as a viable and legitimate way to make a point in a giving lecture-(let's say if reading to Jenna Jameson's "How to make love like a porn star").I totally agree. But for the purpose of the reader's better comprehension of Nureyev's sexual practices, i think she was totally pernicious in some passages...Should i quote...? (Don't know if it would be appropiate... :dunno: )

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I don't think that's really necessary. Readers should keep in mind that Julie Kavanagh always seems to have a dig in for her biography subjects. I was rather put off by her mentioning that in all the time she was interviewing him, Sir Frederick Ashton never picked up the tab at dinner, or cooked for her himself. I found that rather small of her. Fercryinoutloud, he was 80 when she started their conversations. At that age, you are either going dutch or expect others to pick up your dinner, just out of respect for the venerable.

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The problem is, if one thinks descriptions of non-romantic sexual activity are "pernicious", even though these activities were a substantial part of RN's life, this is not a book to read.

Good point. From the flap jacket: "Sex, as much as dancing, was a driving force for Nureyev . . . we [] see Nureyev's notorious homosexual history unfold . . . "

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The problem is, if one thinks descriptions of non-romantic sexual activity are "pernicious", even though these activities were a substantial part of RN's life, this is not a book to read.

Good point. From the flap jacket: "Sex, as much as dancing, was a driving force for Nureyev . . . we [] see Nureyev's notorious homosexual history unfold . . . "

Good point. As K. assumes, we are certainly avid to know all about "Nureyev's notorious homosexual history". But what do i care about certain anonymous character from a leather club "whose favorite thing was..." completed with a full description of his sex practice of choice...?

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I don't think that's really necessary. Readers should keep in mind that Julie Kavanagh always seems to have a dig in for her biography subjects. I was rather put off by her mentioning that in all the time she was interviewing him, Sir Frederick Ashton never picked up the tab at dinner, or cooked for her himself. I found that rather small of her. Fercryinoutloud, he was 80 when she started their conversations. At that age, you are either going dutch or expect others to pick up your dinner, just out of respect for the venerable.

Does old age exempt you from picking up the occasional tab? I imagine David Rockefeller does so despite his advanced years. And my late grandfather cooked until a stroke made it dangerous. Hardly constitutes 'having a dig in' for Ashton.

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Nureyev also was someone who was notorious for not picking up tabs. I detect a pattern here...

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I don't think that's really necessary. Readers should keep in mind that Julie Kavanagh always seems to have a dig in for her biography subjects. I was rather put off by her mentioning that in all the time she was interviewing him, Sir Frederick Ashton never picked up the tab at dinner, or cooked for her himself. I found that rather small of her. Fercryinoutloud, he was 80 when she started their conversations. At that age, you are either going dutch or expect others to pick up your dinner, just out of respect for the venerable.

Well said, Mel (raising tankard, prepaid).

Just catching up on this thread. Thanks for the mention of the review by John Percival in DanceView, bart. It's hard to write a biography of someone one didn't know, and whose early career one hasn't seen, and I was very glad to have Percival's comments.

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I think Sir Fred was still somewhat in the George V period, when old codgers got a bit of a respectful break from buying dinner. He was hardly in the Rockefeller class, and seems to have been delighted when the Queen Mum came to visit and told him, "Oh, don't get up on my account, now, let's have our martinis together." Kavanagh seems to be a bit of a foodie!

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I think Sir Fred was still somewhat in the George V period, when old codgers got a bit of a respectful break from buying dinner. He was hardly in the Rockefeller class, and seems to have been delighted when the Queen Mum came to visit and told him, "Oh, don't get up on my account, now, let's have our martinis together."

:dunno:

Kavanagh seems to be a bit of a foodie!

Yes, indeed...

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I think Sir Fred was still somewhat in the George V period, when old codgers got a bit of a respectful break from buying dinner. He was hardly in the Rockefeller class, and seems to have been delighted when the Queen Mum came to visit and told him, "Oh, don't get up on my account, now, let's have our martinis together." Kavanagh seems to be a bit of a foodie!

I don’t want to go too far off topic and this will be my last note on the subject, but I think even in the time of George V the elderly, at least those who were comfortably off and not indigent, bought the occasional dinner for friends, or at least offered to do so???? There is evidence from elsewhere that Ashton appreciated freebies. Perfectly human and understandable trait, but I don't see how mentioning it constitutes a particular animus against him.

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At risk of further diverting, I wonder if Sir Fred simply assumed the publisher was footing the bill.

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Perfectly human and understandable trait, but I don't see how mentioning it constitutes a particular animus against him.
I agree. Although ... when you think about it and skim back over her books, as I have just done ... you do begin to notice a pattern of such material. You find a small criticism here -- a mild rebuke there -- a prominent raising of the eyebrows --a bitchy adjective placed in the middle of an otherwise inoffensive sentence -- etc. We've all met such people in real life. But, after a while it does become rather wearing.
At risk of further diverting, I wonder if Sir Fred simply assumed the publisher was footing the bill.
This was my thought, too. After all, Kavanagh needed Ashton more than he needed her. He could have paid, of course. Perhaps the enertainment value of her company didn't justify it it? :blush:

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After all, Kavanagh needed Ashton more than he needed her.

Well said, bart.

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It's time to add my two cents. I want to address something it seems to have "slipped" (:angry2:) Ms. Kavanagh's mind when writing the book: Rudolf Nureyev collaboration with Mme. Alonso and the great spanish soprano Victoria de los Angeles in the ballet "Poem of Love and the Sea", a beautiful work created by cuban choreographer Alberto Mendez specially designed to gather the three legends onstage in the First Festival of Music and Dance in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 1990. Above is a link that shows chronological pics of Mme's artistic trayectory.; Scrolling down to 1990 there's a pic of both artists taking bows during a courtain call at the event. :flowers:

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=e...l%3Den%26sa%3DG

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I am puzzled why Henning Kronstam is not mentioned in the index of this book. Bruhn, Nureyev and Kronstam attended Volkova's classes etc -- surely Nureyev and Kronstam would have known each other at least on a professional level? I am wondering how they saw each other... if they had respect for each other... or if their approaches to ballet were too different.

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I am puzzled why Henning Kronstam is not mentioned in the index of this book. Bruhn, Nureyev and Kronstam attended Volkova's classes etc -- surely Nureyev and Kronstam would have known each other at least on a professional level? I am wondering how they saw each other... if they had respect for each other... or if their approaches to ballet were too different.

I'm sure they must have known each other, but the ballet world is a small one. Probably the best reference would be Alexandra Tomalonis' biography of Kronstam. (I can't recall offhand any lengthy discussion of Nureyev in the book but it's been awhile since I've taken it off the shelf. The book is well worth the time in any case.)

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There are a few stories about Nureyev in my biography of Kronstam. Frankly, I can't remember which I kept and which I tossed out. There were several rather nasty stories that I did not include. One that I really really really wanted to include was withdrawn by the person who told it to me (I think I can say it was about Nureyev's being jealous of Kronstam, told me by someone who discussed this with Nureyev).

I don't think they got on. Kronstam didn't interact with people generally, and he did say he didn't like Nureyev's way of tossing out steps. One story that I loved -- can't remember whether it's in the book or not. One ballerina told a story of Nureyev trying to change the choreography and being told (not by Kronstam) he might be able to get away with that in London but he wasn't going to get away with it in Copenhagen.

Kavanagh bypasses Copenhagen generally. Ashton spent a lot of time there, and had several close friends there, but they don't make it into "Secret Muses."

But everybody ignored Kronstam :) He didn't give interviews and was a very private man. The dancers talked about him and compared him to Nureyev -- generally quite favorably (better actor) -- but he's not mentioned except in passing in all but one of the books about The Great Male Dancers of Our Day.

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There are a few stories about Nureyev in my biography of Kronstam. Frankly, I can't remember which I kept and which I tossed out. There were several rather nasty stories that I did not include. One that I really really really wanted to include was withdrawn by the person who told it to me (I think I can say it was about Nureyev's being jealous of Kronstam, told me by someone who discussed this with Nureyev).

I don't think they got on. Kronstam didn't interact with people generally, and he did say he didn't like Nureyev's way of tossing out steps. One story that I loved -- can't remember whether it's in the book or not. One ballerina told a story of Nureyev trying to change the choreography and being told (not by Kronstam) he might be able to get away with that in London but he wasn't going to get away with it in Copenhagen.

Kavanagh bypasses Copenhagen generally. Ashton spent a lot of time there, and had several close friends there, but they don't make it into "Secret Muses."

But everybody ignored Kronstam :) He didn't give interviews and was a very private man. The dancers talked about him and compared him to Nureyev -- generally quite favorably (better actor) -- but he's not mentioned except in passing in all but one of the books about The Great Male Dancers of Our Day.

Thank you for clarifying for me their relationship, Alexandra. It just seemed strange there is no mention of Kronstam, at least as far as I can see so far.

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One thing about the Kavanagh biography that is definitely inferior to the Solway bio is coverage of the Kirov Ballet in the late 1950s. The Kavanagh book does a better job with Nureyev's personal life in his Russian years, but Diane Solway paints a better picture of the Kirov during that time, which was just exploding with talent. For instance people like Alla Sizova, Irina Kolpakova, and Yuri Soloviev plays a prominent role in Solway's book, but are barely mentioned in Kavanagh's book. Odd.

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I have a copy of the book and am dipping into it now. My first impression is that it’s written with Kavanagh’s customary fluidity and the first part of the book is superior to the second, where she tends to get bogged down with Rudi Went Here Then He Went There He Did This He Did That (Acknowledgments to Frank O’Hara. May not be entirely Kavanagh’s fault, either; it happened to the estimable Keith Money in his wonderful Pavlova bio, too. Perhaps it comes with the territory when you’re dealing with these compulsive performers always on the move). I don’t find her view to be ‘bitchy’ or mean-spirited, at least not so far. Nor do I think her discussion of Nureyev’s sex life dwells overmuch on the ‘sordid’ although we hear far too much detailed testimony from various parties concerning Nureyev’s deficiencies in the bedroom; Kavanagh could have saved herself and us a good deal of time by stating that many of his lovers found him to be mechanical in the sack and leaving it at that.

I note also that she gives Vera Volkova something like her due. Meredith Daneman in her Fonteyn bio didn’t ignore Volkova, exactly, but she did not accord her a capsule biography or a sufficient degree of emphasis, in my view. Alexandra Tomalonis in her biography of Henning Kronstam was the first, I believe, to give Volkova’s influence the attention it deserved, at least before the Volkova bio that came out not too long ago – but it was good to see Kavanagh’s discussion (don’t remember offhand what Diane Solway had to say in her book).

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Julia Kavanagh's biography has been shortlisted for the Society for Theatre Research Book Prize. It's on a shortlist of 5 out of over a hundred book entered this year. The awards ceremony is at Drury Lane on 1st April -- I'l lbe there & shall report results here.

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Kavanagh could have saved herself and us a good deal of time by stating that many of his lovers found him to be mechanical in the sack and leaving it at that.

Is it really essential to know about how "mechanical" in sex are our favorite artists...?, (Honestly, I've NEVER been a bit interested in knowing if some of my close friends, let along my dancing idols, males or females, are good or not under the sheets. I still think that she could have mentioned as many sexual partners as she wanted, if she was really convinced that by doing that she would sell more books, but still, she went too far with the "mechanical" thing.)

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Is it really essential to know about how "mechanical" in sex are our favorite artists...?,

I take your meaning, but yes, I am interested -- up to a point. If a figure as sexually charismatic as Nureyev turns out to have little interest in pleasing his partners, I’d say that’s relevant information for a biographer. And I was very pleased to read in Meredith Daneman’s book that Margot Fonteyn had a varied and apparently satisfactory love life, something not true of some other famous ballerinas. I thought that was good news. On the other hand, Daneman rattled on for pages about whether or not F&N had sex together. I understand having to address the issue, but she went on far too long about it. To me, it's a matter of degree.

It's hard for me to imagine that Kavanagh decided in a very long book to include ten extra pages of Nureyev's sex life in lieu of the aftermath of his death.

I wonder if the Foundation had something to do with that. Kavanagh seems to have been working under its auspices, whereas Diane Solway was not.

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Is it really essential to know about how "mechanical" in sex are our favorite artists...?,

I take your meaning, but yes, I am interested -- up to a point.

Mmm...interesting, which leads me to wonder, (and ask you, if i may), if that statement only applies to the dead. What about on the others..? Are we still "interested" to know if certain living legends (Farrell, Fracci, Alonso, and so on) are sexually fitted or not...? What would be the difference...?

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Is it really essential to know about how "mechanical" in sex are our favorite artists...?,

I take your meaning, but yes, I am interested -- up to a point.

Mmm...interesting, which leads me to wonder, (and ask you, if i may), if that statement only applies to the dead. What about on the others..? Are we still "interested" to know if certain living legends (Farrell, Fracci, Alonso, and so on) are sexually fitted or not...? What would be the difference...?

I don't think it's a matter of living or dead: I think that if a person bases his or her persona on an image, when the reality shatters that image, it's of interest. For example, when Howard Stern was role-playing the "bad guy" on his original radio show, but was said to live a typical suburban Long Island life, the contrast was notable. Nureyev had a public persona of being a sexy guy in the sexually liberated 60's, and he got rich and famous from it. It's been noted often that Nureyev's defection, culturally important at a crucial time in the Cold War, intersected with The Age of Celebrity in London, the beginning of the hands off media circus school of journalism, and I think it's a valid point to raise whether Nureyev would have been particularly rich or famous had he joined the Paris Opera Ballet, where after the initial propaganda died, he might be known only in the dance world.

Contrast Nureyev to Baryshnikov: Baryshnikov's defection was also quite noted, and he ended up in one of the world's media capitals. However, while he had a public persona as a ladies' man, between his relationship with Kirkland and especially after having "snagged" Jessica Lange, one of the few traditionally female sex symbols of her time and having a daughter with her, his stage persona was, if anything, detached. Nureyev inspired sex in his audiences, so people are really interested to note that the panther-like, sexual stage persona -- as opposed to a strictly virile one, like Vasiliev -- didn't transfer to real life. That was in great contrast to Baryshnikov.

As far as Farrell, Alonso, Fracci go, few outside of ballet would have any interest, and the interest in Fonteyn outside of Great Britain and the rest of the ballet world would have been minimal without her partnership with Nureyev and the media frenzy that surrounded them.

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