Partner Erik Bruhn

Queer Places:
Mariinsky Theatre, Theatre Square, 1, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000
Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, Ulitsa Zodchego Rossi, 2, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191023
Dakota Apartments, 1 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023, Stati Uniti
6 Fife Rd, London SW14 7EP, Regno Unito
Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery, 4 Rue Léo Lagrange, 91700 Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, Francia

Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev (17 March 1938 – 6 January 1993) was a Soviet ballet dancer and choreographer. He was director of the Paris Opera Ballet from 1983 to 1989 and its chief choreographer until October 1992.

Named Lord of the Dance,[1][2][3] Nureyev is regarded as one of ballet's most gifted male dancers.[1][4][5][6]

In addition to his technical prowess, Rudolf Nureyev was an accomplished choreographer. He produced his own interpretations of numerous classical works,[7] including Swan Lake, Giselle, and La Bayadère.[8]

Nureyev had his early career with the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. He defected from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961, despite KGB efforts to stop him.[9] This was the first defection of a Soviet artist during the Cold War and it created an international sensation.

He went on to dance with The Royal Ballet in London and from 1983 to 1989 served as director of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Rudolf Nureyev did not have much patience with rules, limitations and hierarchical order and had at times a volatile temper.[53] He was apt to throw tantrums in public when frustrated.[54] His impatience mainly showed itself when the failings of others interfered with his work.

He socialized with Gore Vidal, Freddie Mercury, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Lee Radziwill and Talitha Pol, and occasionally visited the legendary New York discotheque Studio 54 in the late 1970s, but developed an intolerance for celebrities.[55] He kept up old friendships in and out of the ballet world for decades, and was considered to be a loyal and generous friend.[56]

Most ballerinas with whom Rudolf Nureyev danced, including Antoinette Sibley, Gelsey Kirkland and Annette Page paid tribute to him as a considerate partner. He was known as extremely generous to many ballerinas, who credit him with helping them during difficult times. In particular, the Canadian ballerina Lynn Seymour – distressed when she was denied the opportunity to premiere MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet – says that Nureyev often found projects for her even when she was suffering from weight issues and depression and thus had trouble finding roles.[57]


Dakota Apartments, 1 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023, Stati Uniti

Depending on the source, Nureyev is described as either bisexual,[58][59] as he did have heterosexual relationships as a younger man, or gay.[60][61][62] He had a turbulent sex life, with numerous bathhouse visits and anonymous pickups.[54] Nureyev met Erik Bruhn, the celebrated Danish dancer, after Nureyev defected to the West in 1961. Nureyev was a great admirer of Bruhn, having seen filmed performances of the Dane on tour in the Soviet Union with the American Ballet Theatre, although stylistically the two dancers were very different. Bruhn and Nureyev became a couple[60][63] and the two remained together off and on, with a very volatile relationship for 25 years, until Bruhn's death in 1986.[64]

In 1973 Nureyev met the 23-year-old American dancer Robert Tracy and a two-and-a-half-year love affair began. Tracy later became Nureyev's secretary and live-in companion. According to Tracy, Nureyev said that he had had sex with three women in his life, he had always wanted a son, and once had plans to father one with Nastassja Kinski.[49]

When AIDS appeared in France's news around 1982, Nureyev took little notice. The dancer tested positive for HIV in 1984, but for several years he simply denied that anything was wrong with his health. However, by the late 1980s his diminished capabilities disappointed his admirers who had fond memories of his outstanding prowess and skill.[65] Nureyev began a marked decline only in the summer of 1991 and entered the final phase of the disease in the spring of 1992.[66]

In March 1992, living with advanced AIDS, he visited Kazan and appeared as a conductor in front of the audience at Musa Cälil Tatar Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, which now presents the Rudolf Nureyev Festival in Tatarstan.[67][68] Returning to Paris, with a high fever, he was admitted to the hospital Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in Levallois-Perret, a suburb northwest of Paris, and was operated on for pericarditis, an inflammation of the membranous sac around the heart. At that time, what inspired him to fight his illness was the hope that he could fulfill an invitation to conduct Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet at an American Ballet Theatre benefit on 6 May 1992 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. He did so and was elated at the reception.[66]

In July 1992, Nureyev showed renewed signs of pericarditis but determined to forswear further treatment. His last public appearance was on 8 October 1992, at the premiere at Palais Garnier of a new production of La Bayadère that he choreographed after Marius Petipa for the Paris Opera Ballet. Nureyev had managed to obtain a photocopy of the original score by Minkus when in Russia in 1989.[69] The ballet was a personal triumph although the gravity of his condition was evident. The French Culture Minister, Jack Lang, presented him that evening on stage with France's highest cultural award, the Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.[66]

Nureyev re-entered the hospital Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in Levallois-Perret on 20 November 1992 and remained there until his death from cardiac complications at age 54 on 6 January 1993. His funeral was held in the marble foyer of the Paris Garnier Opera House. Many paid tributes to his brilliance as a dancer. One such tribute came from Oleg Vinogradov of the Mariinsky Ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia, stating: "What Nureyev did in the west, he could never have done here."[70]

Nureyev's grave, at a Russian cemetery in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois near Paris, features a tomb draped in a mosaic of an oriental carpet. Nureyev was an avid collector of beautiful carpets and antique textiles.[66][67][71] As his coffin was lowered into the ground, music from the last act of Giselle was played and his ballet shoes were cast into the grave along with white lilies.[72]

After so many years of having been denied a place in the Mariinsky Ballet history, Nureyev's reputation was restored.[70] His name was reentered in the history of the Mariinsky and some of his personal effects were placed on display at the theatre museum in St. Petersburg.[70] At the famed Vaganova Academy a rehearsal room was named in his honour.[70]

As of October 2013, the Centre National du Costume de Scene has a permanent collection of Nureyev's costumes "that offers visitors a sense of his exuberant, vagabond personality and passion for all that was rare and beautiful."[73]

In 2015, he was inducted into the Legacy Walk.[74]

At the Paris Opera there is a tradition to organize a dance night as homage to Rudolf Nureyev every ten years after he died in 1993. The homage to Nureyev was scheduled on 20 March 2003 and on 6 March 2013 respectively because he was born in March.[75] Peers of Rudolf Nureyev speaking about him and remembering him like Mikhail Baryshnikov are often deeply touched.[46][76]


  1. Lord of the dance - Rudolf Nureyev at the National Film Theatre, London, 1-31 January 2003, by John Percival, The Independent, 26 December 2002.
  2. A Couture Worthy Ode to la Mode of the Original Lord of the Dance: *RUDOLF NUREYEV A Life in Dance*, review, FashionTribes.com, 29 August 2012.
  3. (in French) "The Lord of the Dance, Rudolf Nureyev died this evening" announcement by Christine Ockrent in the news program "Le soir" from 6 janvier 1993 on France 3 on the Occasion of the Death of Rudolf Nureyev, site Institut national de l'audiovisuel (1 min 47).
  4. Rudolf Nureyev, Charismatic Dancer Who Gave Fire to Ballet's Image, Dies at 54, by Jack Anderson, The Independent, 7 January 1993.
  5. (in French) Rudolf Noureev exercising at the barre, 21 December 1970, site INA (4 min 13).
  6. Philippe Noisette, (in French) « Que reste-t-il de Noureev ? », Les Échos,, 1 March 2013.
  7. Rudolf Nureyev's Choreographies/a>,, Rudolf Nureyev Foundation official website.
  8. (in French)/span> Benjamin Millepied, le pari de Stéphane Lissner, Paris Match,, 26 January 2013.
  9. Bridcut, John (17 September 2007). "The KGB's long war against Rudolf Nureyev". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 May 2010..
  10. "Rudolf Nureyev Foundation official website"/a>. www.nureyev.org..
  11. "- Официальный сайт Фонда Рудольф Нуреев"/a>. rudolfnureyev.ru..
  12. Rudolf Nureyev Foundation official website: short biography
  13. "Rudolf Nureyev IBC - Biography"/a>. nureyevibc.com..
  14. Frazier, Ian (2010). Travels in Siberia. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9781429964319..
  15. "О Рудольфе Нурееве"/a>. nureev-film.com..
  16. "Rudolf Nureyev Biography"/a>. biography.com..
  17. RUDOLF NUREYEV - BIOGRAPHY - 3 YEARS IN THE KIROV THEATRE/a>,, Rudolf Nureyev Foundation official website.
  18. John Bridcut (2007). i>Nureyev: From Russia With Love (Motion picture). BBC.
  19. "Rudolf Nureyev Foundation official website"/a>. www.nureyev.org..
  20. Watson, P., Nureyev: A Biography, p.147
  21. Richard Curson Smith (producer/director) (2015). i>Rudolf Nureyev - Dance To Freedom (Motion picture). BBC Two.
  22. Watson, P., i>Nureyev: A Biography,, p.152
  23. Watson, P., i>Nureyev: A Biography,, p.151
  24. Watson, P., i>Nureyev: A Biography,, p.161
  25. "The girl who led Nureyev to defect"/a>. The Australian.. 14 December 2015.
  26. At the time of Nureyev's meeting Bruhn, soloist was the Royal Danish Ballet's highest rank.
  27. Soutar, Carolyn (2006). i>The Real Nureyev. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-34097-4..
  28. Watson, P., i>Nureyev: A Biography,, p.426
  29. Watson, P., i>Nureyev: A Biography,, p.429
  30. "Mémoires d'étoiles, Yvette Chauviré - Lieurac.com"/a>. lieurac.com..
  31. Rockwell, John (13 January 1993). "Rudolf Nureyev Eulogized And Buried in Paris Suburb" – via NYTimes.com.
  32. Watson, P., i> Nureyev: A Biography,, p.283
  33. Rudolf Nureyev 1938 - 1993/i> by Michelle Potter - on Dance Heritage Coalition at www.danceheritage.org
  34. Rudolf Nureyev, Charismatic Dance Who Gave Fire to Ballet's Image, Dies at 54/i> - Arts Section in The New York Times, 7 January 1993 -on www.nytimes.com
  35. Ruth Page: Early Architect of the American Ballet/i> by Joellen A. Meglin on Dance Heritage Coalition at www.danceheritage.org
  36. The Ruth Page Collection 1918-70/i> at the New York Public Library Archives
  37. Michael Gard (2006). Men who Dance: Aesthetics, Athletics & the Art of Masculinity, New York, Peter Lang Publishing Inc., p. 65.
  38. Sir John Tooley - Nureyev's influence on the development of Ballet in the West/a>,, official site of the Nureyev foundation.
  39. Mikhail Baryshnikov was a pupil of the Vaganova Ballet Academy from 1964 to 1967.
  40. Mikhail Baryshnikov/a>,, biography, site of the Kennedy center.
  41. Rudolf Nureyev's childhood in Russia/a>,, citation of Rudolf Nureyev, official site of the Nureyev foundation.
  42. Il était danseur comme les autres. C'est formidable d'avoir 19 sur 20. C'est très rare d'avoir 20 sur 20. Mais, d'avoir 21 sur 20, c'est encore beaucoup plus rare. Et ça, c'était le cas de Noureev. » (original citation of Pierre Bergé).
  43. « Rudolf Noureev était un TGV. » (original citation of Manuel Legris).
  44. La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballets/a>,, documentary film by Frederick Wiseman, 2009.
  45. (in French)/span> Rudolf Noureev, danseur et chorégraphe,, review by Kader Belarbi, 6 November 2013, website of the Théâtre du Capitol, Paris, extract: "À côté de lui, il fallait vraiment se surpasser. ... À partir de ce moment-là, j’ai commencé à mettre les bouchées doubles." - By his side, you had to surpass oneself. ... From this very moment I started stepping on it. (Kader Belarbi, principal dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet when Nureyev was director and chief choreographer).
  46. Mikhail Baryshnikov about Rudolf Nureyev/a>,, interview with Mikhail Baryshnikov filmed by David Makhateli at Le Palais des Congrès in May 2013, D&D Art Productions (1 min 55)
  47. Baryshnikov's tribute to Nureyev/a>,, the wording of Mikhail Baryshnikov's statement about Rudolf Nureyev, filmed by David Makhateli at Le Palais des Congrès in May 2013, site of the Nureyev foundation.
  48. "1961 - Nureyev defects to the West"/a>. Retrieved 24 March 2014..
  49. Ezard, John; Soutar, Carolyn (30 January 2003). "Nureyev and me". The Guardian..
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  60. Kavanagh, Julie i>Nureyev: The Life (2007) ISBN 9978-0-375-40513-6
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  62. John Ezard and Carolyn Soutar (30 January 2003). "Nureyev and me | Stage". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2012..
  63. "Literary Review"/a>. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2009..
  64. "Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Official Website"/a>. Retrieved 19 March 2009..
  65. Watson, P., i> Nureyev: A Biography,, p.407
  66. "Nureyev Did Have AIDS, His Doctor Confirms"/a>. The New York Times. John Rockwell. 16 January 1993. Retrieved 18 September 2011..
  67. Yaroslav Sedov. Russian Life. Montpelier: Jan/Feb 2006. Vol. 49, Iss. 1; p. 49
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  72. Watson, P., i> Nureyev: A Biography,, p.457
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  74. "Legacy Walk unveils five new bronze memorial plaques - 2342 - Gay Lesbian Bi Trans News - Windy City Times"/a>..
  75. Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev - Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris (2012-2013 season)/a>,, Homage to Rudolf Noureev, ballet director Brigitte Lefèvre explains why
  76. Speaking to an audience Brigitte Lefèvre and Mikhail Baryshnikov refer to Nureyev as Rudolf.
  77. Rudolf Nureyev 1938 - 1993/i> by Michelle Potter - on Dance Heritage Coalition at www.danceheritage.org
  78. Rudolf Nureyev Charismatic Dancer Who Gave Fire to Ballet's Image Dies at 54', The New York Times - Arts Section 7 January 1993, on www.nytimes.com
  79. Maria Tallchief , a Dazzling Ballerina and Muse for Balanchine Dies at 88/i> The New York Times - Dance Section, 12 April 2013
  80. Set and Costume Designs for i> Don Quixote by Barry Kay for both the stage production at the Adelaide Festival (1970) and Nureyev's movie version, gala world premiere at the Sydney Opera House, 1973.
  81. Garlen, Jennifer C.; Graham, Anissa M. (2009). Kermit Culture: Critical Perspectives on Jim Henson's Muppets. McFarland & Company. p. 218. ISBN 078644259X..
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