Today is the 77th birthday of the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. His strength and grace are unparalleled. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Rudolf Nureyev
OCCUPATION: Ballet Dancer
BIRTH DATE: March 17, 1938
DEATH DATE: January 06, 1993
PLACE OF BIRTH: Irkutsk, Russia
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
Full Name: Rudolf Hametovich Nureyev
Best Known For: Ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, whose primary dance partner was Margot Fonteyn, was ballet director for the Paris Opera and appeared in the film Valentino.
Ballet dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev was born, the youngest child and only son to a peasant family of Tartar heritage, on March 17, 1938, in Irkutsk, Russia. When Germany invaded the U.S.S.R., Rudolf and his family evacuated from Moscow to Ufa, Bashkir. Although the family lived in poverty there, Rudolf’s mother, Farida, managed to buy a single ticket to the opera and sneak her children in. At his first glimpse of ballerina Zaituna Nazretdinova, Rudolf knew he wanted to become a dancer.
At the age of 11, Nureyev started ballet classes under Anna Udeltsova. A year and a half later, he moved on to teacher Elena Vaitovich.
“Any time you dance, what you do must be sprayed with your blood.” – Rudolf Nureyev
Nureyev started dancing professionally as an extra at the local opera when he was 15. From there he landed a job with the corps de ballet and toured with them in Moscow.
When Nureyev turned 17, he got into the Leningrad Ballet School, where Alexander Pushkin became his teacher. When he graduated, Nureyev accepted a soloist contract with the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg and debuted opposite Natalia Dudinskaya. Over the next few years, he would dance an additional 15 major roles in productions at the Kirov Theater, including The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
In 1961, Nureyev and the Kirov company toured in Paris. That year, he also made his London debut at ballerina Margot Fonteyn’s yearly gala for the Royal Academy of Dancing. As a result, Nureyev was invited to dance with Fonteyn during the following year’s gala. Their chemistry as a dance team would captivate audiences and garner large fees for years to come, although the partnership was never exclusive. Nureyev’s gallery performance was also the start of his long-lasting relationship with the Royal Ballet, his home base up until the mid-1970s.
Concurrent with his success as a dancer, Nureyev took his first stab at choreography in 1964 with revised versions of Raymonda and Swan Lake. He would go on to re-choreograph four more ballets during his career.
In 1977 Nureyev was considered for the position of director at the Royal Ballet. At the time, he refused because he wanted the time to dance. Six years later, he said yes to a job as ballet director for the Paris Opera, which permitted him to continue dancing six months out of the year. During this time, Nureyev began to take on roles in films such as Valentino and Exposed. Over the course of his career, he achieved success on the stage and both large and small screens.
In the years preceding his death, Nureyev expanded his repertoire to include orchestral conducting. He died of AIDS on January 6, 1993, in Paris.