Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Julie Kavanagh's Nureyev Biography


  • Please log in to reply
194 replies to this topic

#16 carbro

carbro

    Late Board Registrar

  • Rest in Peace
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,361 posts

Posted 26 August 2007 - 10:42 AM

"Why should I make some girl miserable?"

That's a very good answer to that question.

I remember reading the same question, followed by the same reply in, if I remember correctly, different interview. In that context, Nureyev seemed to be alluding most obviously to his never-in-one-place-for-long jetsetting lifestyle, but there was plenty of room for inference. It's a brilliant answer!

#17 zerbinetta

zerbinetta

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 680 posts

Posted 26 August 2007 - 11:01 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.


I took this to be Leigh speaking tongue-in-cheek, which he does so well.

Leigh?

#18 leonid17

leonid17

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,458 posts

Posted 26 August 2007 - 11:19 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.


I took this to be Leigh speaking tongue-in-cheek, which he does so well.

Leigh?

When I posted the above I had just read Segal's article and I was extremely irritated by it, so much so that I missed the irony in Leigh's comment.
My apologies.

#19 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 27 August 2007 - 10:42 AM

I don’t want to start the old ‘Secret Muses’ debate up again, but although the book was far from flawless I found much of what Kavanagh had to say about Ashton and his love affairs to be of considerable interest. (The letters to Dick Beard, to take only one example, were remarkable reading.) And from what I gather, we owe much of the new material in the forthcoming documentary to one of Nureyev’s early lovers. I’m looking forward to both film and book.

I also suspect that, whatever his views while he was still alive (he was a mixture of discretion and boldness, it seems to me) Nureyev would be tickled pink to know that all these years later people are still interested in his sex life.....

#20 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 27 August 2007 - 10:53 AM

Nureyev would be tickled pink to know that all these years later people are still interested in his sex life.....

About that, at least, there can be no controversy. :)

Especially since we are also still very interested in, and fascinated by, his art.

#21 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:04 AM

That sort of goes without saying, at least as far as BTers are concerned, I should think. (I trust I don’t have to supply an 'I’m Interested in the Art' disclaimer every time the subject arises.)

#22 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,476 posts

Posted 27 August 2007 - 11:51 AM

That sort of goes without saying, at least as far as BTers are concerned, I should think. (I trust I don’t have to supply an 'I’m Interested in the Art' disclaimer every time the subject arises.)

The last time I checked the membership list, Lewis Segal wasn't on it, so I think we're safe :)

#23 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 27 August 2007 - 12:57 PM

The producer of the documentary makes an interesting point about Nureyev and his excesses:

In the end, Mr. Bridcut said, working on Nureyev: The Russian Years¯ was not so different from working on his music films. It deals with the same excitement and problems of artistry ā€” the degree to which real artists have to focus intensely on their own work at the expense of those around them,¯ he said. This self-absorption ā€” self-obsession, even ā€” can be hard for those close to them. Benjamin Britten is a classic example, and yet those who were caught in his flame, even if they were burned, still have a great love for him, which is quite remarkable. The same is true of Nureyev.¯


(Copied from the Sunday LINKS, the first post. Thanks, Mme. Hermine.
http://ballettalk.in...mp;#entry210982

#24 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 04 September 2007 - 09:19 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.


I took this to be Leigh speaking tongue-in-cheek, which he does so well.

Leigh?

When I posted the above I had just read Segal's article and I was extremely irritated by it, so much so that I missed the irony in Leigh's comment.
My apologies.


Someone's sex life does tell us about what makes them a great artist when it is obviously libido that goes into all kinds of artistic artistry, and there is not even always even any gap in someone like Nureyev between aspects of their sexuality and their art. Other dancers too, he was just more flamboyant, I think that's cool enough and that his wildness of sexuality should have been part of what made him unique. In any case, it's not possible that it would not. Of course, details of it are unnecessary for that art and this then forms a new more pornographic field. I believe it is in Suzanne Farrell's 'Holding on to the Air' that she says something about how neither she nor Balanchine were especially interested in sex. So the libido gets redirected effectively--this doesn't mean Farrell didn't come across as very sexy sometimes, but it was a different sort of sexuality one would see with a dancer like her than with someone like Nureyev who did go to the Eagle's Nest and did go to the piers on the Hudson. So what? I did too.

But Bart is right about the way everybody in the Arts knew about Nureyev's sexual adventuring in the 70s--at least in New York. There were photos bandied about, he was seen frequently in racy places (by me among others), this was all even more well-known to me through friends of Nureyev by about 1973 onward in a good bit of detail, and even before that people talked about it. I haven't read these articles, and don't see Nureyev especially as a 'sociopath' or 'psychopath' even if all or most of the details written about his sex life are true. But I see little reason to expect new documents on any famous people to be discreet and tasteful, that's not what they're about, they're about selling to current tastes for gossip, of course.

On the other hand, things like Norman Mailer's 'Portrait of Picasso as a Young Artist' shows you a way of dealing with this kind of genius celebrity-artist that also does not cover up his faults. Picasso was clearly an incredibly selfish person in some of his actions even early on, and I haven't gotten to his middle and later years. What he did in terms of his cowardice in terms of Apollinaire is quite as reprehensible as possible. It is a peculiar contradiction that sometimes the greatest artists' ruthlessness may be what makes their particular art possible, it is all definitely a part of what goes into the art. It is possible to try to overlook this because of an artist's greatness, but this is more wishful IMO than anything else, because you don't find out the full range of what went into making this exceptional being. It is necessary to accept that one has to live with the uncomfortable, unresolved contradictions. Mind you, not that I think the contemporary way of explicating every single drop of sweat and cheap pop-song synthetic-romance baubles is admirable, but I don't take it as seriously as some do. Ultimately, the Mailer books on Monroe and Picasso are higher-toned versions of the same thing. It's probable that most of us involved in the Arts think that artists deserve some special privileges and immunity from intrusion. I often feel this, but do know it is pretty much unrealistic, simply because that immunity has been steadily eroding and anyone can get arrested for almost anything, much less gossipped about.

But I think the healthiest way to look at Nureyev's promiscuity is to see it as a part of his adventurous artistry: People going on endlessly about his 'animalism' and 'raw sensuality' didn't pull it out of nowhere; to say otherwise is only to repudiate something very fundamental about Nureyev's very character, but which is to me a mostly positive kind of energy, but this is often done with sex when it gets into some of the less conventional practices (I don't mean homosexuality so much as public sex and promiscuity--and these don't work at all outside very free zones). Now someone on this board mentioned, during that discussion of Simone Clarke and the BNP, that Nureyev had 'knowingly infected partners with HIV', but without any proof of this. If that part is true, then that is a different story, as no one can really expect such to be excusable. Personally, I don't believe that is probable, and don't think Nureyev would have done this. I asked a few people who might have known, and they agreed--however, I can't say that I know for sure about this. I do think that in the early 90s, people still were not as highly tuned to carefulness as they have steadily become over the years since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and that there are periods in which people are more careful vacillating with other periods of greater strictness.

#25 innopac

innopac

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 787 posts

Posted 17 September 2007 - 12:50 PM

A reaction to the book extract from Julie Kavanagh's biography of Nureyev:
"Did Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn have an affair or didn't they?"

Reading this excerpt made me think about three things....

1. Should a biographer practice restraint with using the material they gather? I believe, yes.

I found the statements about Fonteyn's abilities as a lover quite disturbing. They are what you would expect to find in the tabloids rather than a scholarly work.


2. The key point for me is Ashton's statement:

When the choreographer Frederick Ashton and his Norfolk neighbour Keith
Money, the ballet writer, discussed the matter, each was "adamantly certain"
that nothing took place; and when questioned in his eighties, Ashton had not
changed his mind. "I don't think that he awakened in her any sexual thing.
You always love the person you dance with for that moment, and something
must emanate from you that communicates itself to the audience."


Surely a tremendous amount of excitement is generated during rehearsals and performances from moments of creative synergy. My feeling is that these two artists of consummate artistry had the ability to "flow", (using Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's word), together.


3. Did they sleep together?

Who really cares?



#26 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 17 September 2007 - 02:56 PM

I believe it is in Suzanne Farrell's 'Holding on to the Air' that she says something about how neither she nor Balanchine were especially interested in sex.


Going off topic, but what I think she meant to say was that although once they had been lovers of a sort, ultimately their connection was something quite other and beyond (although not necessarily superior, I don’t want to appear to denigrate sexual bonds, which can be as intense and meaningful as any other kind). Balanchine was certainly very interested in sex – that was, finally, the reason she had to leave the company when she did. I’m amazed and impressed that such a young and unworldly woman was able to resist the psychological pressure applied to her by her boss -- and her mother.

innopac, I agree, for the most part. Kavanagh probably got the line you quote in no. 1 from Meredith Daneman’s biography of Fonteyn, and it is regrettable that she elected to repeat it, when I should have thought that once was a good deal more than enough. However, if a given subject had a general reputation as a great lover, or the reverse, that is worth a mention – in moderation.

As for whether a writer should discuss whether Fonteyn and Nureyev had an affair -- yes, in a biography of either party that aims for completeness and is not solely artistic in focus that is a question that should addressed, even though it’s been hashed over repeatedly. The issue, for me, is how much space should be devoted to the matter (in my view, very little), and whose opinions are sought and quoted, and the biographer’s approach generally. Daneman went on for pages. I hope Kavanagh spares us that.

#27 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 17 September 2007 - 03:57 PM

Balanchine was certainly very interested in sex – that was, finally, the reason she had to leave the company when she did. I’m amazed and impressed that such a young and unworldly woman was able to resist the psychological pressure applied to her by her boss -- and her mother.


Yes, it's stunningly impressive, and one journalist described her later as having left NYCB 'with great eclat'. While it's actually sad in terms of Balanchine himself being unable to see this as he would later (and as she recounts in 'Elusive Muse'), I'm afraid I'm a little amused at the way she rebuffed her mother... Of course it's true what you say about Balanchine, I was basing some of this on things Maria Tallchief said about some of those areas of activity--I got the idea it was of more symbolic importance than in any way obsessive as uncontrollable libido (with Nureyev's appetites being the extreme of something like that), but others will know more about this than I do.

#28 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,476 posts

Posted 17 September 2007 - 04:03 PM

Farrell was young and a practicing Catholic. She's said and written that this was an issue for her. She also said in Elusive Muse, that there were times when she was ready for a full relationship with him, but he was feeling guilty about Tanaquil Leclerq, and times when he was ready, and she was feeling guilty about Tanaquil Leclerq.

Also in Elusive Muse, she tries to explain that they got much physical gratification out of working together in the studio. She ends by saying, "It was great!" with the most wonderful smile. What productive sublimation! Freud would have been proud.

Tallchief has also said and written many times that Balanchine had chosen her as a key dancer for his new company, and has said several times that he wanted to be married her to keep her loyalty to him. Just like he said, "Don't be angry, save it for the work," I would think that this would apply to all other non-ballet-focused expenditures of energy and focus. Given how she struggled to balance her career with the passionate romantic life she had after her marriage to Balanchine ended, I would say that was good strategy.

#29 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 17 September 2007 - 05:01 PM

Farrell was young and a practicing Catholic. She's said and written that this was an issue for her. She also said in Elusive Muse, that there were times when she was ready for a full relationship with him, but he was feeling guilty about Tanaquil Leclerq, and times when he was ready, and she was feeling guilty about Tanaquil Leclerq.



Very true – but I wonder. I could be wrong about this but I think it wasn’t until her book came out that she began talking about her ‘amorous feelings’ for Balanchine, and in light of her quite normal interest in young men of her own age (the ‘Roger’ in her autobiography) – I wonder if she really felt a genuine physical attraction or if she’s mostly being tactful and protective of Balanchine. (The age difference and her religious affiliation wouldn’t necessarily have mattered, I think, if Farrell’s own character and psychology had been of a different stamp.)


Moving away a bit from what Mary Astor refers to in “ The Palm Beach Story” as Topic A, I was interested in this quote from the Times link:

Overnight she [Fonteyn] changed her mind: she would dance with Nureyev. She felt the alternative was to risk becoming “an absolute back number, a nothing.”...............Fonteyn decided to bet her professional future on Nureyev after a discussion with her husband, who had every reason to encourage her to prolong her stage career.

I hope that in the book itself there is a mention in this connection of the pivotal role of Ninette de Valois in the making of ballet’s most famous partnership. I saw no mention of her here.



#30 Herman Stevens

Herman Stevens

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 294 posts

Posted 25 September 2007 - 05:47 PM

As far as I can tell halfway in, the Nureyev biography is much better than the Ashton book - especially in balancing the intimacy stuff.

The book is, like all biographies these days, way too long, but Kavanagh will set the standard in RN biography, I suspect.

I'll post a link when I write the review.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):