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Sur les pas de Noureev

Noureev, Rudolf

Ballet dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev was born, the youngest child and only son to a peasant family of Tatar heritage, on March 17, 1938, in Irkutsk, Russia. When Germany invaded the U.S.S.R., Rudolf and his family evacuated from Moscow to Ufa, Bashkir. Although the family lived in poverty there, Rudolf's mother, Farida, managed to buy a single ticket  and sneak her children into the opera. At his first glimpse of ballerina Zaituna Nazretdinova, Rudolf knew he wanted to become a dancer.

At the age of 11, Nureyev started ballet classes, studying with Anna Udeltsova. A year and a half later, began training with Elena Vaitovich.

Nureyev started dancing professionally as an extra at the local opera when he was 15. From there he landed a job with the corps de ballet and toured with them in Moscow. 

When Nureyev turned 17, he was accepted into the Leningrad Ballet School, where Alexander Ivanovich Pushkin became his teacher. When he graduated, Nureyev accepted a soloist contract with the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg and debuted opposite Natalia Dudinskaya. Over the next few years, he danced an additional 15 major roles in productions at the Kirov Theater, including The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.

In 1961, Nureyev and the Kirov company toured in Paris. That year, he also made his London debut at ballerina Margot Fonteyn's yearly gala for the Royal Academy of Dancing. As a result, Nureyev was invited to dance with Fonteyn during the following year's gala. Their chemistry as a dance team would captivate audiences and garner large fees for years to come, although the partnership was never exclusive. Nureyev's gallery performance was also the start of his long-lasting relationship with the Royal Ballet, his home base up until the mid-1970s.

Nureyev took his first stab at choreography in 1964 with revised versions of Raymonda and Swan Lake. He would go on to re-choreograph four more ballets during his career.

In 1977 Nureyev was considered for the position of director at the Royal Ballet. At the time, he refused because he wanted to continue his dancing career. Six years later, he accepted the job as ballet director for the Paris Opera, which permitted him to continue dancing six months out of the year. During this time, Nureyev began to take on roles in films such as Valentino and Exposed

In the years preceding his death, Nureyev expanded his repertoire to include orchestral conducting. He died of AIDS on January 6, 1993, in Paris.

Source : Biographies websites

More information : 

Ballet de l'Opéra national de Paris

The Paris Opéra Ballet is the official ballet company of the Opéra national de Paris, otherwise known as the Palais Garnier, though known more popularly simply as the Paris Opéra. Its origins can be traced back to 1661 with the foundation of the Académie Royale de Danse and the Le Ballet de l'Opéra in 1713 by King Louis XIV of France.

The aim of the Académie Royale de Danse was to reestablish the perfection of dance. In the late seventeenth century, using 13  professional dancers to drive the academy, the Paris Opéra Ballet  successfully transformed ballet from court entertainment to a  professional performance art for the masses. It later gave birth to the  Romantic Ballet, the classical form of ballet known throughout the world. The Paris Opéra Ballet dominated European  ballet throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and  remains a leading institution in the art of ballet today.

Source: New World Encyclopedia

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