Mel Johnson

Nureyev

67 posts in this topic

Well, let me be the first on this forum.

What did you all think of the show?

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I was stunned, surprised, amazed, saddened, horrified and deeply touched.

I also wished I had seen him live before I did when he already seemed as if he was exhausted, back in 1984.

I am not as familiar with Classical (Romantic) repertoire as others (especially you, Mel) who participate in these panels, but watching the Bluebird variation, the coda of the solo in Sleeping Beauty and the solo in Swan Lake, (I had no idea that the Prince had fouettees, too!) his energy and beauty floored me. I was cheering and clapping in my living room, scaring my cats. Plus, I, who don't usually like all the "emoting" in Giselle, was just mesmerized watching him with that big bouquet of lillies.

The early films, taken by his friend, "for him to study" were a privilege to see, and very interesting. His drive was just unmatchable.

The spy story part, the behavior of the Soviets, was just horrific. What brutes. What they did also to his friends and family, what they wanted to do to him ("break his legs"), and what they did do when he performed with de Cuevas was unforgivable.

It was also wonderful to hear him speak, to see those close-ups of him -- the first ones where he said nothing, and later in the film where he spoke -- were beautiful and thrilling.

No superlatives left.

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Alexandra, in closing the earlier thread, noted

The footage at the beginning was when he was in the police station, having just been arrested, with Fonteyn, for being at a party in San Francisco at which marijuana was another guest. I've always been amazed that he could have been that calm and cool, when he must have been terrified -- it could have meant deportation.
After LeBourget, which was truly a leap into the unknown, a piece of cake.

Nureyev was well accustomed to putting on faces not his own. He probably understood that playing cool and playful would communicate a confidence in his own innocence. I remember reading, not at the time but not too long after, that he understood the Cold War Era diplomatic and pr value to the US in not deporting him.

What struck me about this excellent portrait was an enduring paradox -- how at once he seems so knowable and so completely not. Another layer of his mystique.

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This would have given you a much different picture of Nureyev, the pre-1984 version, ViolinConcerto. Thank you for your comments. (And it was good to have a reminder of how much fun the Cold War was (not) )

I was surprised that Alla Sizova wasn't mentioned, and wasn't described as his partner. She was the unshown dancer in the 1958 Corsaire clip -- the full version of that, in black and white, is commercially available, and she's stunning. Her career, one reads, was very negatively affected by Nureyev's defection. But now she's a nonperson?

Are we the only ones who watched? :bow: What did you think?

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It occurred to me that '62-'69 must have been the Glory Years for him, because I went into the Air Force and didn't see him again until '75, and already he was slipping back into what I now realize were technical faults that he had early in his career. The unstretched front leg in coupé jetés, muddy footwork in petit allegro, sometimes flailing port de bras were not in his work in the '60s. He improved a lot when he Went West. I had seen the "Laurencia pas de six" when somebody brought it in to the Joffrey studios for us to watch. He had staged it on us, and there was so much fidgety-feet extra stuff in his version that wasn't in the Kirov's that I was faced with some hopping-mad women. Our consensus was that he had thrown all the extras in just to make the women trip onstage. Mr. Joffrey simply decided that although he might work with us again, he would not stage the works in which he would perform. He kept to that intention.

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The Paris Opera women don't have any trouble with his fast footwork :bow: One can argue that Nureyev used too many steps, but I think it would be hard to prove he did it deliberately to harm dancers.

After the early 1970s he didn't have Volkova, and that may have made a difference. The 1962-69 years (which I didn't see) were when he was working intensely with her. Also, after 1970 he was a guest artist, rather than more regular company member, with the Royal -- there's one interview where he said "they had no more use for me." Guest hopping all over the world without regular classes must have taken their toll, too. He wanted to be a jet-age dancer, but it had its price.

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I enjoyed the film and how it revealed the complexities that lived within him and how he expressed it as art and passion for life. It's hard to imagine how he found the calm to study and perfect his craft amidst all the swirling forces around him. The dancing footage was fabulous.

It's it amazing how an artist can become a political tool or football? I mean really, what doses dance have to do with communism or capitalism? Great artists are passionate about life.

It showed.

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I don't believe that it was a matter of economic practice as in communism/capitalism. But the way that Nureyev and others were batted about speaks to the nature of totalitarianism. It was interesting to hear the name of Culture Minister Ekaterina Furtseva (Mme. Nyet) dropped into the discussion as an example of Khrushchev's "De-Stalinizers". The poor woman was always trying to commit suicide until she got it right.

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Mel,

Your point is well taken. It's the way authoritarian governments abuse the notion of freedom which is a part of humans (and animals) which is appalling. Seeing how such incredible dancers existed despite of and not because of the Soviet is indeed a lesson that the artist is driven by something inside and their love and passion for art. Rudi seemed to be very in tune with visual beauty and actually cried (so they say) in Notre Dame and I don't think it had a think to do with the Christian god, despite the church being responsible for so much of the art from the dark ages through the enlightenment.

There was no mention of Rudi's religion... unless I missed it. Was he an atheist?

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There was no mention of Rudi's religion... unless I missed it. Was he an atheist?

I don't think he practiced it, but he was Muslim. There's a story in his autobiography of how the family living with them when he was a very young child, who was Christian, tried to bribe him with food to say Christian prayers, and he refused.

I think one of the wisest things in the film was something Theismar said (others have said it to, but she said it very well): his religion was dance, and beauty. The reaction in the church, I'm sure, was an aesthetic one.

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My mother forgot to tape it!!!! I reminded her (being without a TV in the dorms is an odd experience) about 50 times and sent an email, and she called me this morning and told me that she forgot. I was wondering if the DVD was worth buying or if the book were worth buying as well.

Would you watch it again if you had the chance? How was the archival footage of Rudi?

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ngitanjali, it's being broadcast in some areas, so you might offer your mother a once-in-a-lifetime chance to redeem herself :bow:

I'm not sure it's out on DVD yet -- the Kavanagh biography is available on the PBS site, but not the DVD, and it's not on Amazon either. But when it is, yes, I think the archival footage is worth it. There's film of Nureyev with the De Cuevas company as well as in Russia.

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Excuse my ignorance as I have never seen Rudi dance. As far as the dancing, his spinning/turning was simply amazing or did they speed up the film? Was this something he was famous for among other things?

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Well, let me be the first on this forum.

What did you all think of the show?

I thought the film a little shapeless and drawn out. And the splicing back and forth on some of the dance clips was horrid.

But I thought the footage filmed by Teja(sp?) was mesmerizing, truly a treasure . And although I've picked up a lot on the forces that drove him from other sources the film was good in presenting them.

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As someone who loves ballet, due to Rudi, this film just gave me a wonderful gift. Among the clips I saw, the Bayadere snippet was the thing that brought a gasp and tear to my eye. I always wished that I could have seen a film

of RN at least doing the Shade scene. It was my one regret as my ballet watching/loving progressed.

IMO I always imagined Rudolf as a magnificant Solor. So the brief view, showed me what I imagined for years was true! Bravo RN forever. :bow::bow::bow:

Mel or anyone. If anyone saw him as Solor in the 60's, could you decribe the experience?

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I liked the opening closeup a lot. Nureyev looked a little like Pierre Clementi and Godard could have been the director. I don't think it was bad as those documentaries go, though the shadow of the projector whirling away was pretty hokey, and it obscured some of the footage. The Bluebird footage was thrilling.

The restaging of the circumstances of Nureyev's flight to the West very moving. It wasn't inevitable, just a sort of existential choice (with a little prompting) and you wonder what his life would have been if he hadn't made the leap. To leave your homeland: not a just a little walk across a field. I wonder how much chaos his defection did cause in his friends lives, or if it was just another trouble that everyone had then.

He cried at St. Chapelle.

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It's it amazing how an artist can become a political tool

It's beyond amazing...is sad, and hard to digest, but it still hapens...I can imagine how frightened Nureyev must have lived during and after his defection...

what doses dance have to do with communism or capitalism?

Dancers in a communism society are not meant to be individual stars, but part of a whole that goes beyond the ballet itself. They represent the governmental self proclaimed superior cultural force based on a still sustained theory of a socialist masses movement success vs. individuality capitalist egocentrism and star system. Go figure... :bow:

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I thought the film a little shapeless and drawn out. And the splicing back and forth on some of the dance clips was horrid.

But I thought the footage filmed by Teja(sp?) was mesmerizing, truly a treasure .

I thought the whole thing was visually mesmerizing: not just the dance footage, but the Russian countryside, the Russian architecture inside and out, the graveside drills, the interiors of the homes of Nureyev's old friends, plus the closeups of their faces and his, so full of character and feeling . . . what a feast!

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Very interesting, enjoyable, and (I thought) well-put-together.

I was surprised that Alla Sizova wasn't mentioned, and wasn't described as his partner
Me too. It was interesting to see his other partner (who's name I do not remember -- Kurlgapina?) She's feisty and obviously considers herself to be on par with Nureyev, something of soul sister as far as rebelliousness was concerned, and a victim of discrimination in the aftermath of his defection.

Among the highlights for me:

Being able to observe the enormous technical improvements he made in the few years after that famous 1958 student recital film.

The chance to see the Bluebird excerpts (fuzzy though they were) from the Cuevas Sleeping Beauty. Now that is something I'm sorry I misssed.

The enormous dignity and sensitivity of those who had been his close friends and shared those early days in Leningrad. It was a delight to see them and hear from them, several of them speaking wonderfully expressive English. Teja Kremke's sister and daughter also impressed me. It was beautiful to watch the woman who was one of his earliest friends in Leningrad, whose academic career was ruined after the defection, as she described her memories. And the same holds for the Romanian roomate at the ballet academy. It says something very important about Nureyev that he was able to attract and hold friends like these.

The chance to see and listen to Ghislaine Thesmar as she is today -- and to discover that she has become, in her older age, the spitting image of my beautiful next-door neighbor, Susan.

The description of the defection at Le Bourget is familiar from the Diane Solway biography-- and I remember a good deal of it from newspapers and magazines (and newsreels, which were still around in those days). But it was gripping to see Pierre Lacotte go through it again in the actual location, and to watch the cross-cutting with original shots from 1961.

A couple of things I didn't like:

The discussion of his relationship with Menia Martinez is illustrated with a pdd with Lucette Aldous, from a much later performance of Don Quijote (the Australian Ballet video?) that could only mislead people who don't know about later developments in his career. The only excuse is that the ballet's theme -- like Ms. Martinez -- his Hispanic.

The footage from a much later performance of Glen Tetley's Pierre Lunaire, used (quite tackily, it seems to me) to illustrate his emotional suffering during the post-defection period.

The decision to footage from Marguerite and Armand that shows Fonteyn in a very unflattering light -- old, stiff, completely out of her league. When was that video shot? This is not the Margot we saw and remember from the early years of their partnership.

In general, Nureyev's partners do not fare well in this documentary. Completely ignored is his ability to create a "chemistry" of sexuality and passion with a female partner on stage. Even in the Romeo and Juliet snippet (repeated once), Fonteyn is mostly standing watching. Aldous is exposed as being out of her league. Sizova is eliminated entirely from the 1958 performance, as Alexandra noted. This is unfair to Nureyev's partners. Nureyev, a gentleman despite his notorious egocentrity, would certainly have disapproved..

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Great Performances

Nureyev: The Russian Years

A profile of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993).

Sunday, September 02, 12:40 AM

WNET - Channel 13

Here's another broadcast, at least for Channel 13 watchers.

There was a New York Times article about Nureyev sometime in the 80s--early or mid--in which he said he no longer missed Russia at all, although that's not the exact quote. One can leave one's homeland and feel that way occasionally--glad to get out of it--and go back into a mood of having deep reverence for it, and he definitely had a love of the lighthearted, parties and carousing, socialites, etc., this is all fine. I'm actually glad he'd not keep missing Russia all the time. I certainly don't miss my 'homeland' nearly all the time, and it's in the U.S.! Anyway, in terms of the narrative, documentaries do like to get all solemn and a little heavy about some things, because they are actually creating something that is at least partly a new fiction.

Here are a bunch of WQED broadcasts:

Great Performances

Nureyev: The Russian Years

A profile of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993).

Friday, August 31, 2:00 AM

WQED - Channel 13

Great Performances

Nureyev: The Russian Years

A profile of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993).

Friday, August 31, 2:00 AM

WQED-DT2 [D]

Great Performances

Nureyev: The Russian Years

A profile of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993).

Friday, August 31, 4:00 AM

WQED - Channel 13

Great Performances

Nureyev: The Russian Years

A profile of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993).

Friday, August 31, 4:00 AM

WQED-DT2 [D]

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.

The decision to footage from Marguerite and Armand that shows Fonteyn in a very unflattering light -- old, stiff, completely out of her league. When was that video shot? This is not the Margot we saw and remember from the early years of their partnership.

A title flashed very quickly and I think it said 1979, which would make Fonteyn 60. I didn't understand at all why they used that footage. Even Nureyev was past his best at this point although he still looked very good

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i was under the impression that was footage of M&A from "I Am A Dancer", which is where I think the shot of him batting at people at the stage door with a flower comes from. ?

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kurgapkina is 9 years or so older than nureyev was. she's every bit the way she appeared in the film, a real pleasure of a person, with a lot of sizzle. Somewhat OT: Can you imagine BTW having a name that is "lenin" spelled backward?

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A title flashed very quickly and I think it said 1979, which would make Fonteyn 60. I didn't understand at all why they used that footage. Even Nureyev was past his best at this point although he still looked very good
Thanks for that, richard53dog. Some of the captions were very brief.

That date makes the decision to choose that particular clip even more inappropriate. When Fonteyn flees the stage on point it is as if the poor woman just can't wait to get away from the dancing chores, take her shoes off, and have a lie down. Sad and dastaradly to include it, in my opinion.

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i was under the impression that was footage of M&A from "I Am A Dancer", which is where I think the shot of him batting at people at the stage door with a flower comes from. ?

There was that other documentary about Nureyev for television that has that 1979 footage, doesn't it? Doesn't 'I am a Dancer' have the 'M & A' footage of the development of it, and when they first performed it? Unless the 1979 clip is from a Fonteyn documentary, I saw them all about a year ago, and now they've run together.

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