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Rudi Nureyev as seen by Rudi van Dantzig


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In today's LINKS forum, dirac has posted a link to a review of a new translation of a book about Nureyev.

Remembering Nureyev: the Trail of a Comet

Has anyone had a chance to look at this? Or heard anything about itt? (It comes from the University of Florida Press, which is becoming a national leader in ballet/dance publication here in the U.S.}

Ellinor Teele, reviewing the book in the California Literary Review, writes:

For Rudolf Nureyev, the audience was all. The first male superstar of ballet, he traversed the world, year after year, reviving old works, commissioning new, demanding, cajoling, insisting that his sole purpose, no matter how old he was, no matter how sick, was to dance for someone.

This is the impression we gain, at any rate, from Rudi van Dantzig’s reminiscences. As written by the innovative choreographer and artistic leader of the Dutch National Ballet, Remembering Nureyev is a hybrid of sorts. It is not a biography — we learn nothing of Nureyev’s early years in the Soviet Union — nor is it a straightforward account.

Rather, it is a conversation between the living and the dead. On one side of the divide is van Dantzig, an intellectual interested in pushing the boundaries of avant garde and modern art, a phlegmatic, almost introspective narrator, a man accustomed to order, a splash of pale blue. On the other, Nureyev, the lover of classic showpieces, the Tatar who delights in romanticism and spectacle, the scarlet streak who thrills, dramatically, to the business of living.

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What a coincidence, I am currently reading this book! Mr. van Dantzig gives the story from a choreographer's angle with details on what it is like to rehearse a new cast for a ballet and on the creating process, and on dealing with complex personalities. It also gives an insight on how Nureev worked and related to other dancers, and choreographers. I find it fascinating.

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I have started reading this book and am finding it slightly disturbing.

If it is written by a colleague that is one thing but if it is written by a friend, as the reviews say, I would have hoped for more signs of friendship... affection perhaps and, at the very least, a sign of an attempt by Dantzig to try and understand Nureyev....

Has anyone else felt uncomfortable about this biography?

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I felt uncomfortable paying so much for a book "about" Nureyev with lots of phtographs of Nureyev and finding there was so little of Nureyev in the book and nearly all of the photos of him that are in the book are also on line. :)

Like Innopac, I also found it odd that someone who is a friend -- and really was -- airs every grudge he has against the friend. (I don't object to the airing of grudges -- that happens to any public figure -- but it was an odd context. But, as I wrote earlier, I took the book to be about van Dantzig and his dancer rather than about Nureyev, and I fault the publishers for that. I'm sure in Holland it's perfectly appropriate (van Dantzig is a very well-known and respected person there, and there's ample justification for him to write a memoir.)

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I know some people found the book to be a little harsh on poor Rudolph,but apparently he liked & trusted Rudi Van Dantzig enough to ask him to write it. The book was an interesting view of Rudolph from a dance insider unlike other biographies I have read.I think that Van Dantzig is a sensitive and intelligent guy who created some original ballets which where pretty edgy for that time,I think he was someone Rudolf Nureyev admired.

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I am so glad that other feel the same way that I did about this book. It seemed to be about the Dutch National Ballet and its dancers more than Nureyev. Van Dantzig was some friend! And how do we know if Rudolf really asked Rudi to write about him - he just seemed to slam Nureyev at every opportunity. However, Nureyev's association with the DNB certainly placed the company on the map! I never would have paid any attention to them if it wasn't for Rudolf dancing with them, even if those ballets were odd.

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What I did find very interesting were the passages about the difficulties Dantzig had to face at the Paris Opera as a visiting choreographer.

And I am glad I read the book for the following passage alone. It is from the Afterword and is especially poignant when one thinks about these two men, Balanchine and Nureyev.

Nureyev has already gone down in history, dance history; of that I became aware when he made his last appearance on stage at the Paris Opera, and during the following days, as I saw the deep awe of those beholding him. Even then, there was an unbridgeable distance; we staying, he poised for departure. Wonderment and awe.

The same feeling came over me as I was watching class in the studios of New York City Ballet. Stanley Williams was teaching a group of very young dancers from the company, children almost. The class had been going on for quite a while and the barre-exercises were over, when all at once, Balanchine entered the studio. Williams halted the class. I saw the young dancers looking at their illustrious choreographer and artistic director, their uneasy reaction--and to my surprise, some girls even giggling nervously.

Balanchine himself did not seem to notice, moving laboriously, occasionally supporting himself at the barre. He did not take the shortest route across the studio to the central position next to Williams; instead he shuffled along the walls, around the young dancers. The two men spoke together for a moment, then Balanchine watched the class for a short while, leaning on the barre, afterwards retracing his laboured way back. Suddenly the atmosphere in the studio became uneasy, embarrassed even. Only when Balanchine had reached the door did one of the boys in the class open it for the visibly ailing choreographer. When he had disappeared, I saw two girls in a corner crying.

At that moment, I could clearly sense how age and fame can cause immense inaccessibility and solitude as well. Toward the end, solitude surrounded Rudolf as well; he already seemed to be drifting away, like one who had fallen by the wayside, a wanderer now.

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