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Julie Kavanagh's Nureyev Biography


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#31 dirac

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 10:33 AM

Joan Acocella’s review appears in the October 8 issue of The New Yorker. She’s rather hard on Nureyev. I don’t mean to suggest he’s beyond criticism and we all have our preferences, but it’s quite a contrast to those Shiatsu massages she gives Baryshnikov in print.

http://www.newyorker...?printable=true


In 1983, Nureyev undertook his last really big assignment: he became the artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet, the oldest ballet company in the world. He is widely credited with giving that proud, hidebound institution the shaking up that it needed. He hired teachers who had non-French training; he brought in modern-dance choreographers. In the process, however, he developed a bitterly antagonistic relationship with the company. Two of the modern-dance choreographers left without finishing their ballets, because the dancers refused to attend their rehearsals. Twice, the company threatened to strike. Usually, he met their complaints with defiance. When a veteran teacher, Michel Renault, objected to Nureyev’s interrupting his class to make corrections of his own, Nureyev broke his jaw. Renault sued and was awarded twenty-five hundred francs. “If I’d known it would be that little,” Nureyev said, “I’d have hit him a second time.”

Perhaps, to change anything whatsoever at the P.O.B., some breakage was required. But Nureyev was seldom able to mend things, because he was in Paris only half the year.



#32 Alexandra

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 11:10 AM

Marc Haegeman did a series of interviews with French etoiles for DanceView over the past few years. Odd, if Nureyev's relationship was so antagonistic with the company that each of them spent a good chunk of their interviews explaining, in explicit detail, what they got from him, how much they admired him, etc.

#33 bart

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 12:51 PM

Alexandra, perhaps both versions are true, depending on the situation and on the individual dancers. Those who were young (and adaptable) when Nureyev arrived probably had a more favorable (or at least less jarring) experience than those who were committed to the old POB way of doing things. Those who impressed Nureyev by their abilties -- and, possibly, by malleability and cooperativeness -- also would have had an easier time. I'm thinking of the DanceView cover story on Laurent Hilaire, whom Nureyev made an etoile in the mid 80s.

#34 Helene

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 02:12 PM

There was also the thinly veiled series of infomercials about POB productions, "Dancer's Dream." In the Raymonda version, Manuel Legris, a contemporary of Hilaire, who was heavily promoted as Hilaire's equal during the POB's NYC appearances, was less than impressed by Nureyev, which was shockingly negative given the "rah-rah" nature of the series.

I think it may have depended on the cost-benefit analysis of each dancer, much like stories of working with Jerome Robbins read: was the behavior worth it in the end to that dancer? Was there recognition of genius, and, if so, was it enough? To Armen Bali, Jane Hermann was too thin-skinned; clearly, to Jane Hermann, the answer was "no."

#35 innopac

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Posted 01 October 2007 - 02:51 PM

Marc Haegeman did a series of interviews with French etoiles for DanceView over the past few years. Odd, if Nureyev's relationship was so antagonistic with the company that each of them spent a good chunk of their interviews explaining, in explicit detail, what they got from him, how much they admired him, etc.


I love this quote:

"I think about Rudolf all the time now," Legris concludes. "Everybody does. It is very strange how we all think so much about Rudolf, now. Every day someone remembers something else. `Oh, you know, Rudolf used to say that this step was . . .' His corrections, the things he tried to get us to do. I don't just mean that I think about him in rehearsal or when I see something that reminds me of him. I mean, when I am just sitting here. When I am by myself. Maybe putting on my makeup before a performance."

from Merchant Prince of Ballet by Otis Stuart

#36 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 03:21 AM

By chance I came upon this article of January 25, 1962 from the New Yorker by the late Janet Flanner on Nureyev's defection.

It begins at a high temperature and gets ever hotter:

At Le Bourget airfield last June, Rudolf Nureyev, of the Leningrad Kirov Opera Ballet, escaped from the rest of the Soviet troupe, with whom he had appeared at the Opéra here. Paris ballet circles consider that in this defection Russia lost its most phenomenal young male dancer, and that the West gained the strangest, and uncontestably the most influential, personality—as well as the greatest technician—since Nijinsky


(Edited to correct the date of the article to 1962, as vrsfanatic says.)

#37 vrsfanatic

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 04:33 AM

I believe the date is incorrect...January 25, 1962 might be more appropriate.

#38 bart

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 06:25 AM

Thanks for that piece, ViolinConcerto. What a discovery! :wink: Flanner would certainly have been reporting -- in her wonderful rococo manner -- what the Parisian social/intellectual/artistic classes saw and felt. I love the following:

In his curtain calls, he is disdainful of the delirious shouts and applause; he merely inclines, by an inch, that haughty head.

Note that disdain and hauteur are presented as positives. I suspect they were a big part of the allure that he exerted over audiences.

#39 papeetepatrick

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 07:51 AM

Note that disdain and hauteur are presented as positives. I suspect they were a big part of the allure that he exerted over audiences.


Yes, there's a certain kind of 'total fan' who goes for this aspect. It's allowed at a certain tipping point of thralldom, so that a few performers like Nureyev and Garbo can pull this off after they've first applied the total joy of their own narcissism to themselves. After they have proved it to themselves, they can then use it as part of their public persona. I see this as perfectly normal if you can do it, or if it isn't normal, that's irrelevant. Some of the writing about these superstars is maybe a little embarassing, but that's because it's a few steps removed from the actual nakedness that only the most adept narcissist can deliver. Much better to go all the way with super-style like that, than part of the way like certain American politicians who think 'mild continental style' will make them look something other than weak.

#40 bart

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 09:00 AM

It's allowed at a certain tipping point of thralldom, so that a few performers like Nureyev and Garbo can pull this off after they've first applied the total joy of their own narcissism to themselves. After they have proved it to themselves, they can then use it as part of their public persona.

I love it! Talk about hitting the nail on the head about a certain category of "legend." (Remember the Blackgama mink coat ads?) Thanks, papeetepatrick, for that insight. :wink:

#41 carbro

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 01:27 PM

Remember the Blackgama mink coat ads?

You can buy one of those posters now, on eBay -- the version where RN posed with Martha Graham and Margot Fonteyn -- for a mere $295.

Those were the days when a legend was a Legend. Today's "legends" include Cindy Crawford and Elle MacPherson. They may yet become legendary -- who knows? -- but are they now?

#42 papeetepatrick

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 01:58 PM

Those were the days when a legend was a Legend. Today's "legends" include Cindy Crawford and Elle MacPherson. They may yet become legendary -- who knows? -- but are they now?


was.....Peter Martins a legend or a Legend? when, all of a sudden I turned over the cover of the New Yorker in the early 80s to find him dripping with fur? (carbro will hate this, but I couldn't resist. I myself wasn't quite sure that had been totally appropriate. Someone said, by way of explanation: 'The money...')

#43 dirac

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 02:04 PM

Marc Haegeman did a series of interviews with French etoiles for DanceView over the past few years. Odd, if Nureyev's relationship was so antagonistic with the company that each of them spent a good chunk of their interviews explaining, in explicit detail, what they got from him, how much they admired him, etc.


I only hope there's a little more balance in the book.

#44 carbro

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 02:06 PM

was.....Peter Martins a legend or a Legend? when, all of a sudden I turned over the cover of the New Yorker in the early 80s to find him dripping with fur? (carbro will hate this, but I couldn't resist. . . .)

No, carbro doesn't hate this. :wink:

At the time Martins was, I'd say, a Legend, but not (as were Graham, Fonteyn and Nureyev) a [size=3][size=3]L[/size][/size][size=3][size=2]egend.[/size][/size]

#45 bart

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Posted 02 October 2007 - 02:23 PM

I do remember that particular ad. I've often wondered how many actual readers (even allowing for the fact that they were an affluent glossy magazine audience) were able to recognize some of the "legends" who appeared in that campaign.

Nureyev cultivated exposure all over, and people were fascinated with him for many reasons, not all of them having to do with dancing. .I'll bet he had remarkable recognition levels. Fewer would have been able to name Fonteyn and Graham, I imagine, but they did fairly well.

I can't imagine, however, that many people outside New York City and Copenhagen could have put a name to Martins. One quality of "legends"-- and it's even more true about Legends -- is that people generally know who they are.

I wonder who the genuine ballet "legends" (in terms of glamour, image, and name recognition) there are in the world today.


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