“A pas de deux is a dialogue of love. How can there be conversation if one partner is dumb?” — Rudolf Nureyev


Joan Acocella, dance critic for The New Yorker:

Almost everyone who describes Nureyev eventually compares him to an animal. They bore you to death with this, but it was true.

Rudolf Nureyev’s solo debut on American TV, 1963

All quotes below come from Nureyev, by Julie Kavanagh, a wonderful biography.

But first: Here was MY introduction to Nureyev.

Excerpt from Kavanagh’s book:

We have to remember what Rudolf looked like back then on a staid British stage,” says writer and photographer Keith Money: “The bare midriff and all that glitzy Soviet campery were to some the absolute height of bad taste.” Most people, however, were transported by the sight of this exquisite youth yearning up toward Margot as the curtain fell, his fingers splayed, his back arched and pelvis thrust forward – “like a great Moslem whore”. And it was not only his passion and animality that were so stirring, but the speculation their union prompted about the ballerina’s own sexual depths. It made Verdy think of the King Kong legend – a “scene of seduction and cruelty … like the whole thing really was a bedroom … and you were watching through the keyhole.”

Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn

“They seemed aware of each other even when their backs were turned. When their eye met, a message was passed.” — Alexander Bland

“Combine the smolder, the mystery, the dynamic presence, the great streaks of vivid movement which Nureyev gives us with the beauty, the radiance, the womanliness, the queenliness and the shining movements of Dame Margot…” — Walter Terry, ballet critic, on Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn

Nureyev and Fonteyn

“My husband called [the partnership] a celestial accident. To probe into its componenets is like trying to analyze a moonbeam.” — Maude Gosling, (ballerina wife of writer Nigel Gosling – good friends of Nureyev – and the two wrote a dance column together, under a joint pseudonym, Alexander Bland, see first quote above)

“Emotionally, technically, physically – in every way. They were just meant to meet on this earth and dance together.” — Ninette de Valois

Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, “Romeo and Juliet,” 1966

“We become one body. One soul. We moved in one way. It was very complementary, every arm movement, every head movement. There were no more cultural gaps; age difference; we’ve been absorbed in characterization. We became the part. And public was enthralled.” — Rudolf Nureyev

“He was transfigured when he danced. I’d never seen such unearthly beauty. He seemed unreal; not of this world – like an archangel.” — Ballet fan on Nureyev


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7 Responses to “A pas de deux is a dialogue of love. How can there be conversation if one partner is dumb?” — Rudolf Nureyev

  1. Helena says:

    Thanks, Sheila, for this is lovely reminder of one of the most romantic, charismatic and brilliant artistic partnerships ever.

    Nureyev is definitely in the pantheon of talismanic pansexual peacock males.

  2. Desirae says:

    That clip of Fonteyn and Nureyev dancing Romeo and Juliet is breathtaking. The way he throws himself backwards through the air is absolutely thrilling. He looks like someone waved a wand and turned a panther into a beautiful Russian man. All grace and power, no delicacy.

    “I will never forget his arrival running across the back of the stage, and his catlike way of holding himself opposite the ramp. He wore a white sash over an ultramarine costume, had large wild eyes and hollow cheeks under a turban topped with a spray of feathers, bulging thighs, immaculate tights. This was already Nijinsky in Firebird.”
    – Oliver Merlin on Nureyev

  3. Clary says:

    I had to look at wikipedia to check some dates, how old he was around WWII, how old he was when he left the Bolshoi, etc. and there’s a photograph of his tomb. My God, I’ve never seen such a beautiful tomb!!
    I was thinking about how great and famous people lose that fame, meaning, younger people don’t have a clue who Nureyed was, who Margot Fontayn was (unless they dance or are very cult). So if you look for fame, that’s so fleeting! Better to work just for the sake of it, for your satisfaction, in the case of actors, dancers, etc. to have an effect on other people. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know.

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