Rudolf Nureyev

Nureyev, Rudolf (nŏrĕˈyĕf) [key], 1938–93, Russian ballet dancer, b. near Irkutsk, Siberian USSR (now Russia). Nureyev studied in Ufa and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and in 1958 he became a soloist with the Kirov Ballet. In 1961 he defected from the Soviet Union while on tour in Paris. The leading classical ballet dancer of his generation, Nureyev was noted for his overpowering stage presence and his exceptionally athletic skill and fiery grace. His major roles included the leads in La Bayadère, Les Sylphides, Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Le Corsaire, Raymonda, and Sleeping Beauty. As a guest artist with the Royal Ballet, London, and elsewhere Nureyev appeared with many celebrated ballerinas, most notably as partner to Margot Fonteyn. He revised and staged several ballets, including the Marius Petipa version of Don Quixote (1966), and from 1983 to 1989 he was the ballet director of the Paris Opéra. Nureyev also danced in a number of works by modern-dance choreographers, including Glen Tetley and Paul Taylor; frequently appeared on television; was the star and subject of a feature-length film; and had a limited-run Broadway show (1974–75).

See his autobiography (1962); biographies by C. Barnes (1982), D. Solway (1998), and J. Kavanagh (2007).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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