Sunday, March 17, 2013
As if to prove that movement would be the driving force of his life, dancer Rudolf Nureyev was born on a Trans-Siberian train near Irkutsk, Siberia, on March 17, 1938. His mother was travelling to Vladivostok, where his father was stationed in the Red Army. An ethnic Tatar, he fell in love with dance as a child, but did not study ballet formally until age 17. He became a star with the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad in roles that included Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Renowned for rebelliousness, he defected from Russia in 1961 at Le Bourget Airport in Paris on the Kirov’s first-ever foreign tour. For this it is believed Premier Khrushchev sought to have him killed. He became associated with London’s Royal Ballet and gained fame in roles with ballerina Margot Fonteyn. Later he directed the Paris Opera Ballet. His outstanding prowess and skill as a dancer were legendary, and he introduced a new, gentle style of male dancing that was taken up by other choreographers.