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Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev

by Patricia Boccadoro

ARIS, 23 May 1997 - After a moving and original exhibition, "L'Universe di Nureyev" at the Trussardi Art Centre of Milan, it is the turn of the Carnavalet Museum in Paris to present "Rudolf Noureev, Une Etoile à Paris", based on the collections belonging to the European branch of his Foundation, an organisation he set up to give grants to young dancers and choreographers as well as to medical research.

The exhibition at the Carnavalet, a beautiful 17th century mansion in the heart of the Marais, one of the oldest areas of Paris, evokes the life of Rudolf Nureyev using a series of photographs, film archives, videos, posters and programmes as well as his stage costumes and his own private collection of works of art.

The curator, Jean-Marc Léri, said that the exhibition had been assembled in Paris as a tribute to a very great man who gave so much to the city, and who was essentially very Parisian.

Rudolf Nureyev, the most famous dancer of all time, sought asylum in Paris in 1961, and then took up the directorship of the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980's. His love story with the French capital only ceased at his death on 6 January 1993, when he was buried in the tiny Russian cemetery at Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois, 15 miles south of the city.

The young decorator, Pascal Payeur, has sought to give a special atmosphere to the exhibition by using not only the stage costumes, but also the dancer's personal possessions, his engravings and paintings and other memorabilia from his apartment on the Quai Voltaire, which have been bought at public auctions by the Foundation. "We have not tried to present a biography, but rather to evoke the image of Nureyev the dancer, the choreographer, art-lover and musician," said Mr Léri. He added that he was also particularly pleased to present the amazing collection of annotated scores, not only of dance works but Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, as well as Nureyev's musical instruments.

Rudolf Nureyev was an accomplished musician, a fact which helps explain the perfection of his dancing, and his ambition to conduct all his own ballets...from the orchestra pit.

A highlight of the exhibition was a 35-minute film projected onto a large screen of excerpts of Sleeping Beauty (Paris 1961), the Corsaire pas de deux with Margot Fonteyn (An Evening with the Royal Ballet, 1964), and Le Jeune homme et La Mort (with Zizi Jeanmaire (1965).

When the exhibition closes on 27 July, the Carnavalet Museum, which already has rooms dedicated to writer Marcel Proust and the poet Anna de Noailles, will open a space dedicated to Nureyev where they plan to show a small part of these exhibits as a permanent collection.

As they do not have the facilities to conserve all of Nureyev's collection of films, personal archives, rare books, photographs and other documents, these will go to either the Bibliothèque Nationale or to the new national dance centre being built at Pantin on the outskirts of the city.

Marc Richter, the secretary of the Zurich-based Foundation, commented that several countries had wanted to set up a permanent centre for Nureyev's work, but the Foundation had always thought Paris was the city most associated with him. "We are anxious that there should be easy access to his unique collection of films on dance. Nureyev", he said, "was very insistent on his work being available to others."

The only regret was voiced by André Larquié, President of the "Cercle d'amis", who was at the origin of the project. He commented that it was a pity that the Foundation could not afford to buy more of Nureyev's possessions, especially his bronzes, and hoped that the collection would be enriched over the years by private donations.

It is also hoped that the exhibition will inspire young researchers to present a more complete picture of a many-sided man, one of the greatest artists of our time.

Musée Carnavalet 23, Rue de Sévigné 75003 Paris 30 April to 27 July 1997 Open every day 10 am - 5.40 pm, except Mondays and holidays.

Photos : By courtesy of Christie's

Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com.

Related CK Dance Archives

Click here to read Dance Magazine's Birthday Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev

Click here to read Patricia Boccadoro's book review of Rudolf Nureyev : Three years in the Kirov Theatre

Rudolf Nureyev's "Swan Lake" Still Fresh and Exciting

The Paris Opéra Ballet Ten Years After Rudolf Nureyev

The Dancer Who Flew : A Memoir of Rudolf Nureyev

A Week For Rudolf Nureyev

A Birthday Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev

Rudolf Nureyev's "Don Quixote" Reveals New Stars

Rudolf Nureyev's "Raymonda" Thrives at the Paris Opera Ballet

DVD: "Don Quixote" on Film: Restoring the Impossible Dream

Kirov Ballet's Saison Russe: A Window Into Ballet History


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