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Nureyev panel


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#1 sandik

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 12:33 PM

Dance historian Leslie Holleran is putting together than panel on Nureyev, hosted by PNB, on November 2, and found a great photo of Francesca Corkle handing a bouquet to Fonteyn and Nureyev.



#2 sandik

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Posted 23 November 2013 - 07:26 PM

Pacific Northwest Ballet hosted a panel discussion about Rudolph Nureyev earlier in the month, led by local writer Leslie Holleran, with many fascinating stories from Roslyn Anderson, Elaine Bauer, Stephanie Saland and Peter Boal.

 

Holleran opened up the program with that photo of Nureyev and Fonteyn being greeted at the local airport in 1963 by a young Francesca Corkle, handing them a bouquet.  It’s a sweet photo on its own, but it’s also a reminder of the kind of celebrity Nureyev had, so that the precocious daughter of a local ballet teacher would meet the touring stars, and then see their photo in the morning paper.  Nureyev was followed by other, gifted stars throughout the boom years of the 1970s and after, but he had a distinct place in the dance world.

 

Holleran gave a quick overview of his career in the West, and showed excerpts from the Bell Telephone Hour performances.  It was great to see him with Tallchief in the Flower Festival pas de deux – I hadn’t really thought much before about that particular repertory choice, but this time around I wondered why they settled on that, when Bournonville was still relatively unknown in the US.

 

The first set of personal stories came from Anderson.  She was in Seattle to set/coach three Kylian works on PNB, but when she first started work as a professional, it was with the Australian Ballet in 1967, just in time for their US tour of Nureyev’s Don Q.  As a newcomer to the company, she said “I was a rookie,” and that Nureyev was quite ominous and “scary.”  She also referred to his “animal presence,” at which everyone on the panel nodded vigorously.  Holleran asked what it was about N that intimidated her – was it his temper?  She said that was part of it, but it was also just “the gaze.”  Peggy van Pragh was teaching company class at the time, and she would modify work for him, mostly by slowing down tempos (to accommodate the amplitude of his movement.)  Anderson had left the company before they made their film of that production, but she heard that he was just as intense during that process as anything else, acting as director alongside performing.  Anderson went to Nederlands Dans Theater and Jiri Kylian later on, and found that Nureyev was very interested in Kylian’s work.  At one point NDT was performing at Lincoln Center at the same time that Nureyev was at City Center – N would zip across town in his dressing gown to watch the company from backstage during his intervals.  He never did get a chance to perform anything from that repertory, but when he was directing the Paris Opera Ballet he commissioned work from Kylian – apparently it’s the only company outside of NDT that Kylian has created for.

 

Elaine Bauer was with Boston Ballet in 1980 on their first big tour (China to Cannes and many places in between) when she found out that Nureyev was going to work with the company.  Violette Verdy was about to direct the company, and they learned they were going to get the Lacotte Sylphide, to back Nureyev for some performances.  Bauer was 31 at the time, and didn’t think that she would be doing the project – casting was a surprise.  The company rehearsed in Paris without Nureyev, pretending to be tourists to get into the Opera building, where they really weren’t supposed to be working.  They got one studio rehearsal and one stage rehearsal with Nureyev before performing – Bauer shared the part with Ghislane Thesmar and the flying effects were by the Foys.  This led to three years of working/touring with Nureyev at Boston, which was a real change for the company, and for Bauer.  “My expectation of what I could do went up a notch” with Nureyev.  She described him as “an essential partner” who expected you to do your work.  They didn’t have a personal relationship, but were good colleagues.  Bauer spoke about the “magnitude of his artistry” which she felt was larger than his technical expertise at that point.  When asked about temper she talked about temperament – “you can’t produce that kind of energy on stage without having that in yourself.”  He staged his own production of Don Q on the company, but she felt he was “so distracted” with the details of staging – working on Giselle was a kind of recuperation. 

 

Stephanie Saland met Nureyev around 1973-74 at the Russian Tea Room – “we were waiting for the king to come and order.”  They had just seen him in Apollo, and when he found out she was with NYCB he asked her what she thought about the performance.  She said that she’d liked it, but “it didn’t look anything like what I saw in my theater in rehearsal.”   He replied “tell me everything.”  She knew him socially for about 10 years before she danced in one of his “Friends” projects.  She would visit his apartment at the Dakota, which was full of people, celebrities – he was “hungry for everything.”  By the time she performed with him, she described him as “a lion past his prime,” with many nods from the others on the panel.

 

Peter Boal knew him in class – Nureyev was “affiliated with dozens of companies” but when he was in class he was very intense.  Stanley Williams men’s class at SAB in the 70s was “a cult class” – very clean and focused, very quiet.  People came to take class and to watch.  Boal described himself as a “12 year old that looked 9” – the first time Nureyev came to class when he was there he wasn’t sure he knew who he was.  Williams was interested in people who were devoted to the essence of the technique, especially outward rotation.  The impression we got was that Nureyev felt Boal was a kindred spirit in class – years later, when Boal was taking class at the Paris Opera, Nureyev pulled him out of the group to demonstrate how Williams taught a pirouette.

 

There were several comments to the effect that teachers would often defer to Nureyev in classes, starting again if he came in after the beginning of the barre, changing tempos and altering combinations, but the overall impression that everyone had was that while he was a very demanding individual (would sometimes tell teachers he didn’t like their combinations), he held himself to a very high standard and was an exacting student.

 

Boal talked about Nureyev’s mostly unrealized desire to work with Balanchine – said he thought it was ironic that while Balanchine was making Le Bourgeosis Gentihomme for Nureyev, a role that was mostly a satire of classical elements, he was also creating a new male solo in Square Dance for Bart Cook that celebrated those same things, a role that Nureyev would have loved to perform earlier in his career.  Sometime later Nureyev did perform Orpheus, but that it was essentially a sad experience “he knew what he could do, what he had, and what he was missing.”

 

Answering a question about Nureyev’s approach to roles and choreography, Boal said he felt that he had always been a student.  In a general discussion about his impact on the dance world, and the larger world’s impression of dance, Elaine Bauer said she felt sad that after he defected to the West, Nureyev “eclipsed” Erik Bruhn – Boal’s observation was that prior to Nureyev, men in ballet were “almost laughable.”



#3 Amy Reusch

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Posted 23 November 2013 - 07:47 PM

Thank you! I wonder when we will see that kind of stage presence again... If you ever hear why the Bournonville choice, I hope you will share it here. When did Nureyev meet Bruhn?

#4 Paul Parish

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Posted 23 November 2013 - 10:27 PM

Nureyev and Bruhn were lovers. This is all in the biographies -- Kavanaugh's is exhausting but exhaustive -- every sentence is clotted with detail --  but well worth reading. Otis Stuart's is kinda breathless and scandalous but a page-turner. When he first came west Nureyev felt his technique was still very raw; he put himself to school with Bruhn, whose classicism he admired beyond anything. He learned Bournonville's La Sylphide and Flower Festival and modeled his style on Bruhn's [though of course he still flared his nostrils and all that].
 
Fonteyn said she was surprised how much this tiger was concerned to improve his technique -- and said he improved HER techinque, esp with turns -- he corrected her shoulders and the turns became more reliable and easier..
 
https://www.youtube....h?v=4Vy9qAtnKUY

#5 Helene

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 12:12 AM

I thought Nureyev was interested in Bruhn not only because of the Bournonville technique, but also because of Vera Volkova's influence on the RDB.

Boal talked about Nureyev’s mostly unrealized desire to work with Balanchine – said he thought it was ironic that while Balanchine was making Le Bourgeosis Gentihomme for Nureyev, a role that was mostly a satire of classical elements, he was also creating a new male solo in Square Dance for Bart Cook that celebrated those same things, a role that Nureyev would have loved to perform earlier in his career.

Did Boal say Balanchine was satirizing classical elements in the "Square Dance" solo?

I don't think there's anything in the music or the movement that suggests this.

#6 sandik

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 12:25 AM

 Fonteyn said she was surprised how much this tiger was concerned to improve his technique -- and said he improved HER techinque, esp with turns -- he corrected her shoulders and the turns became more reliable and easier..

 

She talks about that in her autobiography as well -- he really galvanized her.



#7 sandik

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 12:27 AM

I thought Nureyev was interested in Bruhn not only because of the Bournonville technique, but also because of Vera Volkova's influence on the RDB.
 

Boal talked about Nureyev’s mostly unrealized desire to work with Balanchine – said he thought it was ironic that while Balanchine was making Le Bourgeosis Gentihomme for Nureyev, a role that was mostly a satire of classical elements, he was also creating a new male solo in Square Dance for Bart Cook that celebrated those same things, a role that Nureyev would have loved to perform earlier in his career.

Did Boal say Balanchine was satirizing classical elements in the "Square Dance" solo?

I don't think there's anything in the music or the movement that suggests this.

 

I'm sorry if it isn't clear -- Boal said that he felt the solo for Cook in Square Dance was a celebration of classical dancing, and that the material that Nureyev danced in Le BG was a satire or send-up of those same things.



#8 Helene

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 12:50 AM

Oh, that makes much more sense. 

 

I can't see Nureyev doing Cook's solo, though, or maybe I should say I can, and I don't think it would have worked:  I think the dynamics would have been all wrong.

 

Thank you so much for posting your notes!



#9 sandik

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 01:05 AM

I can't see Nureyev doing Cook's solo, though, or maybe I should say I can, and I don't think it would have worked:  I think the dynamics would have been all wrong.

 

I don't know that I could see him doing it, but I can certainly see him wanting to -- it's a beautiful thing.



#10 Helene

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 01:09 AM

I think it's the most wonderful solo Balanchine made for a man.

#11 atm711

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 08:36 AM

Thank you! I wonder when we will see that kind of stage presence again... If you ever hear why the Bournonville choice, I hope you will share it here. When did Nureyev meet Bruhn?

What sticks in  my head is that Nureyev was a last minute replacement for Bruhn---and not being too familiar with Bournonville at that time---I didn't know what I was missing.....




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