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June 16, 1961 - "Soviet Dancer Leaps to Freedom"

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Imagine - 50 years ago, this week, newspapers world-wide heralded the news, and the ballet world was thrown into a tizzy!

We all know of Rudolf Nureyev's great contributions to dance -his influence in the popularity of ballet and modern dance and the enhanced prominence of male dancers; and, to those of us of a certain age, the excitement and happiness of seeing Rudi in performance.

I was very young when he defected and remember my Mother being so worried about him, as well as his Mother, and my Father, a great student of Russian history, knowing the terrible dangers Rudi faced; but I just knew that he was one of the bravest men on earth!

I am surprised that there are so few celebrations of this historic anniversary. I only know of a couple - an exhibition of Jamie Wyeth's paintings of Rudi in New Britain,CN and Linda Maybarduk presented "The Nureyev Effect" (consisting of lectures, films, and master classes) in Southern California and Florida.

What are your memories of this momentous event?

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Being Estonian and knowing what it meant to defect, I was also fearful of the repercussions his family would have to face. At that time I only knew of one other defection, that of Estonian seaman Viktor Jaanimets, who became a celebrity within the Estonian community in New York because of his bold escape. That happened 8 months before Nureyev's:

COLD WAR: West to Freedom

Nureyev became a major world celebrity in short order. His prodigious talent was unlike anything I had ever seen before in ballet (I was only 14 at the time). Perhaps next Thursday there'll be some news items and/or articles about his defection. I hope it is addressed in the media.

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I was eleven years old, a ballet student, absolutely exhilarated by the news and also - along with my mother - quite concerned for Nureyev's safety and that of his family and close colleagues. He had such a difficult time finding personal and professional moorings following his defection.

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