Mel Johnson

Nureyev

67 posts in this topic

I saw the Solor, only in his one-act version for the Royal when he was past his prime, but I loved it. He still had the ferocity, and he DANCED it. It was never just steps or just counts. A waltz was a waltz; I thought him very musical. I learned what a "double assemble" was from him -- or rather a review of Anna Kisselgoff's in 1976, saying that Nureyev had restored that step, which he had dropped a few years previously. At the time, very few men could do them, and they were thrilling. Sometimes he would look into the air as if it were an enemy, meet space eye to eye, and hurl himself into it. I remember that, too, and the yearning. I think Nureyev did yearning better than anyone -- and he takes Top Honors in Cape Handling, too. (Not a bad fencer, either.)

The Towel Dance happened in the West, in Erik Bruhn's back yard, if I'm remembering correctly. It's either on the Nureyev biography video or Fonteyn and Nureyev partnership video.

dirac, I agree with you, and the others, who've pointed out that some of the inclusions of later footage, juxtaposed to early Russian or defection events, is very misleading. (And I will never forgive them for including this one: "And who should come running in from the toilet!!!" with Nureyev rushing on stage as Armand. Thanks, guys. I always thought he'd been riding.) If you'd seen the clilps, you could place them, but someone seeing this for the first time will assume that the sequence where Nureyev meets the press, that I mentioned above, was immediately post-defection when it wasn't, and the Cuban dancer whose story is being told over footage of Lucette Aldous with Nureyev in Don Q should sue :angry2:

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I didn't see his Solor until '75. That's when I was so disappointed. I do, however, remember his Bluebird with RB in '63. He really swung poor Georgina Parkinson around like a side of beef. That's why I have trouble with descriptions of him as a "gentleman", or denying his misogyny. His own dancing was almost as impeccable as Erik Bruhn's but not quite, and the intensity with which he worked made this Bluebird look more like a hawk than a songbird. Dangerous.

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The "danger" Mel mentions is something quite a few friends of mine remembered. One friend who saw his American debut (out at BAM, that was famously not covered by the New York Times because it wasn't in Manhattan) said that he was like a young panther pacing in a cage. When people talk about his stage presence, and his electricity, that's what they mean.

About his partnering, I saw performances lilke Mel described, but I also saw a lot of performances -- with Fonteyn, Karen Kain, Lynn Seymour -- where he was extremely solicitous and tender.

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Sometimes he would look into the air as if it were an enemy, meet space eye to eye, and hurl himself into it. I remember that, too, and the yearning. I think Nureyev did yearning better than anyone -- and he takes Top Honors in Cape Handling, too. (Not a bad fencer, either.)
Beautifully said -- and very true.

Mel, you make a valid point about some of Nureyev's partnering. I gather he could be very impatient with and dismissive of women whom he felt made him look bad on stage, and on at least one occasion at the Met I remember thinking he was trying to show up his partner as they circled the stage in a series of grands jetes, his unnecessariliy higher, longer, and more expansive than hers. When I referred to him as a gentleman, however, I was actually thinking to his off-stage relationships. Nureyev had a number of extremely close female friends throughout his life. In the 70s in NYC it was possible to see him occasiionaly out and about town with women, and he always appeared, in public at least, very much the cavalier.

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Mel, you make a valid point about some of Nureyev's partnering. I gather he could be very impatient with and dismissive of women whom he felt made him look bad on stage,

Interesting. I never saw him dancing live, but in every single video that i've seen of him i have the feeling that he wants to make sure to let people know that he is the star. I see this even in his dancing with Mme. Fonteyn :crying: , in a more subtle way due, i guess, to the genuine and profound respect and love that Nureyev felt for his friend and mentor.

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One friend who saw his American debut (out at BAM, that was famously not covered by the New York Times because it wasn't in Manhattan)

I thought he made his American debut in Chicago.... ?

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He danced with the Ruth Page company at BAM, and also at the Lyric Opera. He danced in the Merry Widow, did the Flower Festival Pas de deux and also Black Swan with Sonia Arova (who also did Merry Widow) and in Chicago danced in Prince Igor as well as in a separate ballet evening. The library's web site gives the date at BAM as March 10, 1962 (there are some reviews listed with the date) and he danced with the company in Chicago in October during the opera season. The Nureyev Foundation's website has a timeline which also states that he performed Don Quixote with her, and I don't know if it was on the same date or at a subsequent performance.

A later review by Anna Kisselgoff of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in April of 1982 stated, in part:

The last time we saw Ruth Page's ballet, ''The Merry Widow'' in New York was at a historic performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1962. No company in the city was willing to give Rudolf Nureyev any New York exposure -he had not even been out of Russia for a year then - and it was the Ruth Page Ballet that came from Chicago to provide him with the showcase.

Mr. Nureyev's New York debut then consisted of a guest appearance in the ''Black Swan'' pas de deux with Sonia Arova. He looked frightened, almost small in black tights and did not dance as well as he had with the Kirov Ballet or as he would in the future. He brought down the house. After the tension of this occasion, the atmosphere was relieved by another production on the same program - Miss Page's very lighthearted, pretty ''The Merry Widow.''

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If I remember correctly, his way was prepared for him by Erik Bruhn, who had been booked to dance with the Page company, and on the Bell Telephone Hour (Flower Festival with Maria Tallchief). Bruhn claimed appendicitis, which may or may not have been real. They had strategized Nureyev's introduction to American audiences with an "out-of-town tryout" and a national TV appearance, so that his first Royal Ballet appearances would come with a prepared audience of nascent Rudifans.

But he did have a legendary rude streak. Perhaps it was Equal Opportunity rudeness. He could be mean and sarcastic when dealing with men, too (Dick Cavett a case in point). Given the number of times he did the Cavett show, and that they were photographed together by paparazzi, perhaps Cavett realized that he was part of the act, too.

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I personally loved the documentary. I especially loved Ninel Kurgapkina, so elegant and eloquent, plus all the early footage. Technical weaknesses be damned, every time I watch him on tape I fall in love again.

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Thanks Mme. Hermine, that explains my confusion... I didn't realize the Ruth Page Company had played NY.

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I taped it and watched again tonight. Listening to Lacotte's narration, i was going back in time and thinking that it most be hard to understand for the western culture sometimes how terrified one could have been out of something that would go against the government, and defection is one of the worst things. I was observing the answers when the interviewer would ask to the russians about their thinking over Rudy's decision and the impact that it had on their life . Almost all of them would describe the event as a chaos, and with certain bitterness and negativity. Wanting to leave the country, the goverment that had given him everything, as they would proclame , was a crime, and it was viewed as a very bad thing. :off topic: I remember when i was a teen, all the good students would automatically join the CYU (comunist youth union). Generally, the entrance to this organization would be denied to those who were bad students with pro-delinquent attitudes. Basically, the good people were "awarded" the entrance, and it was not necesarily a political thing. Those who didn't belong were outcasted, and generally trouble makers. There were very few cases of apolitical students, who never asked to join the organization and were left out too. Those were generally considered rare specimens, (i was one of then). Nowadays Nureyev's situation would look as a very old and out of reality story with Marinsky and S. Petersbourg back in the vocabulary, (i must confess that i still call it Leningrad, as i learnt it), but let's not forget that there are still communist governments and struggling dancers who still defect and have to pay the consequences of being outcasted from their own countries . Please, next time we watch Rolando Sarabia (Miami City Ballet), or Lorena Feijoo (San Francisco Ballet, to mention just two examples of the loooong list), let's not forget that they are the modern cases of this phenomenom, and that they don't have the privileges that others who have decided to colaborate with the cuban goverment have.

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I could have sworn there was discussion on this thread about RN's sexuality. Did that get snipped, perhaps in homage to Soviet-era cultural control? Just kidding...

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I could have sworn there was discussion on this thread about RN's sexuality. Did that get snipped, perhaps in homage to Soviet-era cultural control? Just kidding...
There are currently a number of Nureyev threads in process on BT. This one --

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=25514 --

began as a discussion of Nureyev and demi-pointe and digressed into other issues when a rather negative article about Nureyev by Lewis Segal was Linked. I think this is the one you are thinking of, Ray. And it's still there! :)

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I could have sworn there was discussion on this thread about RN's sexuality. Did that get snipped, perhaps in homage to Soviet-era cultural control? Just kidding...
There are currently a number of Nureyev threads in process on BT. This one --

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=25514 --

began as a discussion of Nureyev and demi-pointe and digressed into other issues when a rather negative article about Nureyev by Lewis Segal was Linked. I think this is the one you are thinking of, Ray. And it's still there! :)

No, that's not the one, unless I'm just not seeing it. I remember that someone posted something to the effect of why sexuality was important to RN, since it "made him dead."

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No, that's not the one, unless I'm just not seeing it
Ray, I'm sorry. I forgot that Helene started a new thread to cover the Segal discussion. Mme. Hermine, than's for linking to it. :)

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Those who enjoyed the "trick photography"-like effect of Nureyev's dancing in this film might like to compare Farrell's in the restored Don Quixote film to start showings at the NYPL tomorrow, I believe. (A NY friend, BTW, though not on NYPL staff, thinks it'll be generally available for viewing in the library starting the 20th.)

Anyway, spectacular as N's sequences are, F does much more complex ones, to my eye. Even more spectacular? What do you think?

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