By Patricia Boccadoro
28 March 2001 - " For me, dance and life are one. I will
dance to the last drop of blood. "
the last page of her book, The Dancer who Flew , Linda
Maybarduk, a former soloist with National Ballet of Canada, gives
special thanks to her husband, Bill Alguire, whose advice to her was
to "start writing, write from the heart, and the rest would take
care of itself ".
The result is a very remarkable
biography of the world's greatest romantic classical dancer, where the
only 'error' was committed by Tundra, McClelland and Stewart, who
published it in their Young Readers Division. It is a book which
defies categorisation, being of great interest to dance-lovers of all
ages, as well as those who admired Nureyev.
I appreciated it
for the same reasons I liked the Russian book, *
Rudolf Nureyev: Three years
in the Kirov Theatre . Both works were written by people who
obviously cared about Nureyev, and knew him well on several levels ;
as a friend, a fellow artist, and in the case of Maybarduk, as an
adopted member of the family
She first met him in 1965, and
has woven an enchanting portrait of the man who was neither an
idolised god, nor the devil incarnate, an impossible task for anyone
outside the dance world. Guided and inspired by her personal
experience, she chose to write about what she knew, (which thankfully
did not include the list of medicine he took, nor any lovers he might
or might not have gone to bed with. ) She deals intelligently with
infinitely more interesting aspects, including his impact as a dancer,
a teacher and mentor, his passion for new forms of movement and the
contribution he made to bridging the gap between classical ballet and
In the early chapters, she draws heavily
on Nureyev's own early autobiography, for which she thanks Alexander
Bland (Nigel and Maude Gosling), supplementing this with her own
souvenirs of him, which date back to when she was eleven. " I
remember his kind and enthusiastic smile..... his long light brown
hair was tousled and uncombed; it looked like a lion's mane and had
the effect of softening the chiselled features of his face. "
time went by, she explains how she and her husband and children became
Rudolf's Toronto family , and tells many anecdotes portraying him as
down to earth, sincere and overwhelmingly kind.
In 1972, she
recalls being singled out to dance a pas de deux with him, and tells
how Nureyev sensed her anxiety and squeezed her hand to reassure her.
Generous to an excess in passing on his knowledge to those who wanted
his help, he would think nothing of renting a whole restaurant and
inviting everyone in the company he was touring with to dinner, and
stories of the financial help given to others less fortunate abound .
Over superb meals in his own home the conversation would jump from
Russian to English, to French, German or Italian, and Rudolf would be
conversing in all of them. She does not gloss over his less noble
side, but in describing the Leningrad years, defends him by pointing
out that " it was not that he deliberately set out to break the
rules ; he simply paid no attention to them ". He charged through
the Kirov's rules and traditions like a bull in a china shop, but only
when they stood in the way of him dancing his best. She doesn't mince
words, adding that any ballet company in the world would have punished
a dancer as obstinate and difficult as Rudolf.
from AIDS is dealt with briefly but competently.
her points are a series of carefully chosen and eloquent photographs,
each of which adds something to the book. She has no need to develop
any incidents at the Leningrad ballet school, for she has included a
fascinating snapshot of Rudolf with his adored teacher, Pushkin, and
Shelkov, his adversary, in which Nureyev's expression spits defiance
and arrogance. Point made.
There are more than seventy black
and white photographs from her own family album, as well as from the
personal collections of people including Maude Gosling, Marika
Besobrasova, the Jude family, the Nureyev family, Tessa Kennedy, as
well as a phenomenal one of him truly " in flight ", amongst
those donated by Tamara Zakrzhevskaya. Many are interesting because
they've simply not been seen before.
The Dancer Who Flew
is written with tenderness, honesty and warmth. All events have been
put into their proper context, with the emphasis where it should be,
reminding us that Nureyev's greatness is because he put the male
dancer on an equal footing with the ballerina, and brought dance into
the twentieth century. It is also a tribute to him, for she has
possibly fulfilled a silent promise ; to talk about his art, and not
his illness. She has succeeded in bringing her subject alive by
providing a most refreshing read after all the exaggerated nonsense
published for commercial reasons after the Russian dancer's death in
Nureyev : Three years in the Kirov Theatre, a joint
publication by " MOL " Ltd. And " PUSHKINSKY FOND "
publishing house with the participation of DEAN+ADIA-M
** Nureyev: His Spectacular Early Years , first published in
1962, edited by Alexander Bland.Hodder and Stoughtons
Dancer Who Flew : A Memoir of Rudolf Nureyev
Illustrated. 184 pp. Toronto
McClelland and Stewart $18.95
Articles: A Birthday
Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev
à Rudolf Noureev
Boccadoro writes on dance from Paris. 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.