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A Week For Rudolf Nureyev

 

By Patricia Boccadoro

BORDEAUX, 24 March 2003 - In the dressing-room of every dancer I know, there is a photograph of Rudolf Nureyev smiling down. His contribution to dance is possibly greater now than in his lifetime and to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death, official galas are being held in many of the great European Opera Houses where he performed. In December, La Scala, Milan staged his version of The Nutcracker, followed by an evening of international stars. On 6 January, exactly ten years after he died, extracts from his productions were programmed by the Vienna Opera Ballet, while two weeks later, the Paris Opéra Ballet, where he was artistic director from 1983 to 1989, held an important gala where many of the étoiles who created his ballets appeared. Elisabeth Platel, Monique Loudières, and Isabelle Guèrin all took part as did Sylvie Guillem who danced Ashton's Marguerite and Armand, partnered by Nicolas Le Riche.

At Covent Garden, London, where he was guest artist for most of the 1960's, and where his arrival also coincided with their golden age, seven performances of a 'tribute to him' are planned for the beginning of April.

Apollon
Apollo
© Photos: Julien Palus

At Bordeaux, where pride of place goes to dance as much as wine, one of the people closest to him, French étoile Charles Jude currently artistic director of the company there, presented a more intimate programme, complimentary to that held at the Paris Opéra. He recalled how the great Russian dancer would poke fun at tributes to people after death, saying "hommage; dommage" in a laconic voice; he did not like the expression at all. Accordingly, a week of wonderful small-scale works of the sort Rudolf Nureyev himself had so loved dancing, featuring as guests many of the choreographers and dancers he had known and admired was planned.

That it was something Jude had wanted to do for a long time was clearly demonstrated by the care taken with the beautiful souvenir programme which contained many snapshots from the dancer's private collection. An entertaining film entitled, La Danse du Compagnon errant, was projected, where well-chosen excerpts of film put together by René Sirvin, Nicolas Villodre and Wallace Potts, showed Rudolf the man as well as Nureyev the legend. Everything, including the two separate programmes of ballets which illustrated his enthusiasm for everything new had been very carefully thought out.

"Considering dance lived only through creation, Rudolf loved choreographers. one of the reasons he was so avid to meet them on his arrival from Russia, and as Balanchine was his favourite, I programmed Apollo, a role upon which he left his indelible stamp", Jude told me after the week's celebrations. "Carla Fracci, who was Nureyev's best-loved ballerina after Margot Fonteyn, brought her Tribute to Isadora, a divinely interpreted three-part solo in a choreography reconstructed by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, while another close friend, Irek Mukhamedov came with his own version of Ashton's "Poème tragique". I wanted it on the programme because it was the first ballet Rudolf danced in London, and because he himself had chosen the music by Scriabin, one of his favourite composers."

Apollo
Apollo
© Photos: Julien Palus


Continuing to talk to me about the festival of dance for Nureyev, Charles Jude added that another particular friend, Jean Guixerix, whom Rudolf considered the "contemporary dancer", while Jude was the "classical", created Flodur Veeruon for the occasion, a piece evoking Nureyev's fascination for character dancing when he was young, his passion for the grand classics, and finally touching on his enthusiasm for baroque and modern.


"Guixerix naturally included music from Tchaikovsky and Bach, the two composers Rudolf spoke of as 'the heart and the reason", Jude explained. " He too had interpreted Béjart's Chant du Compagnon errant, a ballet which Béjart had created for Rudolf, and which he had promised to the Paris company for its gala evening. Therefore, for Bordeaux, Maurice Béjart paid his own tribute both to Rudolf and to Nijinsky, the century's two greatest dancers, creating a new work, Le Chant du clown errant, interpreted by Octavio Stanley from Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Béjart also gave us Etude pour la Dame aux camélias, again as a tribute to Rudolf and Margot's* Marguerite and Armand, but in his version, Marguerite , sublimely interpreted by Christine Blanc, dances alone.

Le Chant du clown errant
Le Chant du clown errant
© Photos: Julien Palus


"I wanted to present pieces from his Nureyev and Friends , and so José Limon's magnificent work, The Moor's Pavane, which we'd all danced with him seemed a perfect choice, as did David Parson's Caught, interpreted by Dario Tortorelli, which also brings back memories ", smiled Jude. "When Rudolf and I first saw the ballet on tour, he pointed his finger imperiously in the air, announcing that he just HAD to dance the ballet, but he didn't as Parsons wouldn't give it to him! But he did give us Brothers instead."

The Moor's Pavane
The Moor's Pavane
© Photos: Julien Palus

Finally, one of the most beautiful pas de deux on the programme was John Neumeier's Don Juan , choreographed for Rudolf Nureyev in 1974, and remarkably well interpreted on this occasion by Joelle Boulogne and Ivan Urban, two dancers from the Ballet of Hamburg. The American choreographer, who had met Nureyev in 1963, considered him the ideal Don Juan, and so Jude had made a special trip to Hamburg to obtain the ballet. Neumeier, whom Nureyev until his death had never ceased to urge to create also paid a special tribute to the man whom Béjart also described as the Danseur suprème in one of the very moving letters printed in the programme, " .... dancing, " he wrote, " was the breath and substance, the very essence of his existence", a view shared by Glen Tetley, who wished to share in the event despite the fact no work of his could be programmed. Tetley, who saw Nureyev's Paris debut in 1961 spoke of his debt to him, for Rudolf Nureyev's belief in him and his work.

"He enlarged the boundaries of dance with his genius as a performer", he wrote, and certainly, Charles Jude's astute choice of works was the perfect illustration.

RELATED CK DANCE ARCHIVES

 The Paris Opéra Ballet Ten Years After Rudolf Nureyev

The Dancer Who Flew : A Memoir of Rudolf Nureyev

A Birthday Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev

Rudolf Nureyev : Three years in the Kirov Theatre



Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian, 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.

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