“I want to stay and to be free.” – Rudolf Nureyev at Le Bourget Airport
I had a great opportunity to watch a Sony Pictures film titled “The White Crow” about the life of Rudolf Nureyev. The film is powerful, not only because of Nureyev himself but of what it shows about living under Communism during and after WWII. Rudolf’s family “were Tartars, coming of peasant stock in the Soviet republic of Bashkir.” His father, Hamet, become a political education officer in the Red Army, advancing to the rank of major during WWII.
The main influence in his life was his mother, who first took the young Rudolf to a ballet. From then on Rudolf wanted to be free to dance. Nureyev wanted to dance where he wanted and when he wanted. His penchant for wanting to be with Westerners finally caused him to be recalled to Moscow. Therefore, as a free thinker, Nureyev became an enemy of the Soviet state. This eventually lead to his defection.
Rudolf Nureyev Foundation notes:
When the company went to Paris in 1961 for its first foreign tour, Rudolf could hardly be left behind but a close watch was kept on him.
Still he did not conform. Instead of returning obediently to the hotel each night in the coaches provided, he went out with French dancers and other locals. One or two other Kirov dancers did likewise but Nureyev was the one who caused most alarm to the political agents running the tour.
When everyone arrived at the airport to move on for performances in London he was instead given a ticket to Moscow and told he was needed for a gala.
Disbelieving assurances that he would rejoin the company in London, he was sure he would never again be allowed out of Russia and would face relegation back home.
He decided to seek asylum in the west and managed to get word to friends who had come to see him off. They told the French police, who explained that Nureyev must personally approach them; he did this and was granted permission to stay in France. Russian officials thereafter did all they could to disparage the “defector”, and in absence he was sentenced to prison. For many years all his travelling had to be done on temporary documents but eventually he was given Austrian citizenship.
Watch the trailer:
What I learned from this film was what it is like to live under a Communist regime, the former USSR. The “C” in Communism stands for control. The White Crow is about an artist who stood against oppression. His name was Rudolf Nureyev.
The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation says this about “The White Dove”:
Ralph Fiennes’ THE WHITE CROW was inspired by the book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life by Julie Kavanagh. The drama charts the iconic dancer’s famed defection from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961, despite KGB efforts to stop him. Fiennes directs from a script by David Hare (The Hours). Acclaimed dancer Oleg Ivenko stars as Nureyev, alongside AdAle Exarchopoulos as Clara Saint, and Fiennes as Russian ballet coach Alexander Pushkin.
I highly recommend seeing “The White Dove” to understand why American can never become socialist.
The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation provides this Nureyev biography:
1938 March 17. Birth of Rudolf, fourth child and only son of Hamet and Farida Nureyev, aboard the Trans-Siberian express, near Lake Baikal. He spends his childhood and youth in Ufa, capital of the Soviet Republic of Bashkir. His parents are Tartar Muslims.
1955 August 24. Rudolf Nureyev takes the entrance exam for the prestigious Vaganova Academy (Kirov Ballet school) in Leningrad. He is admitted and trains under legendary ballet teacher Alexander Pushkin.
1958 For the school’s graduation concert, Rudolf Nureyev dances the pas de deux from Le Corsaire with Alla Sizova. He joins the Kirov (ex-Marinsky Theatre) Ballet in Leningrad, the most important dance company in the USSR, as soloist.October 28. Debut at the Kirov in the pas de trois in Swan Lake.
1961 Kirov Ballet tour, Paris. Rudolf Nureyev’s success is stunning from his very first appearance on stage at the Palais Garnier on May 19, in Act III (Kingdom of the Shades) from La Bayadère.June 16. Rudolf Nureyev “chooses liberty” and demands political asylum at Le Bourget airport instead of boarding an airplane to take him back to the USSR. He joins the Ballets du Marquis de Cuevas the next day. Decisive encounter with Erik Bruhn, principal dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet.
1962 Departs for Copenhagen to study the Bournonville style with Erik Bruhn.February 21. First performance of Giselle with Margot Fonteyn and the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. Rudolf Nureyev becomes guest artist with this company and continues as such until 1977
1963 March 12. Premiere of Marguerite and Armand, choreography by Frederick Ashton for Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. It becomes their fetish ballet.November 27. Rudolf Nureyev remounts a choreography by Marius Petipa for the first time, Act III (Kingdom of the Shades) from La Bayadère for the Royal Ballet. His career quickly becomes international. He dances as a guest star with all the major ballet companies in Europe, the United States and Australia. He dances the princes of the repertoire as well as creations by Frederick Ashton, Rudi Van Dantzig, Roland Petit, Maurice Béjart, George Balanchine, Glen Tetley, Martha Graham and Murray Louis. His insatiable curiosity leads him to try all dance styles. He also remounts the great 19th century Russian ballets by Marius Petipa, a choreographer he reveres: Sleeping Beauty,The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Raymonda. He choreographs Tancredi and Manfred.
1983 Rudolf Nureyev becomes dance director at the Paris Opera Ballet, a position he holds until 1989.
He brings new life to the company, invites numerous modern choreographers and teachers, choreographs Cinderella and Washington Square….
1989 Finally obtains long-waited approval from the Soviet authorities to return to Russia and dances La Sylphide at the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad, where he had not returned since 1961.He can visit his dying mother during a short trip to USSR.
1990 He performs in the musical comedy The King and I in the United States.
He performs “Song of a wayfairer” for the last time at the Paris Opera Devoted himself to orchestral conducting.
1992 October 8. First performance of La Bayadère, remounted by Nureyev based on choreography by Marius Petipa, at the Palais Garnier.
1993 January 6. Rudolf Nureyev dies at the age of 54, at the Hôpital du Perpétual Secours in Levallois-Perret, near Paris.Rudolf Nureyev was buried at the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois near Paris.