On June 16, 1961 Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West, seeking asylum in France. Less than a year later he was the most famous male dancer in the western world.
Even before his defection, he was a star in his own country, Russia. He was from the very beginning a gifted, talented, unique, flamboyant, charismatic figure, who became indisputably amongst the greatest ballet dancers ever. Far beyond his powerful presence, within his aggressiveness and his capricious outbursts, he was hungry and curious for everything he could possible experience; dancing, lovers, travels, other forms of art. Under a naked eye, stripped to the bottom of his hunger, he was simply a disciple of movement.
So, long before the political intrigues of his times, a time of the Cold War between Russia and USA, long before the money and fame he acquired as symbols of his success, in view of his humble origins and the stages that he reached in the great cities of the world, even before the affection and love from men and women and his intense love life, Nureyev was creating and taking more and more movements during all of his Life.
He was hungry to explore and test the limits of his movement in his life, to see how far he could reach, in and out of the stage.
He was not always planning thoroughly his steps, sometimes life was catching his breath and he had to follow, with his fears and his doubts. But he was not going to betray his charisma and not take his “grand sauté”. That movement was not a narcissistic choice, it was coming from a deeper need that he was trusting.
Through his different biographies, I loved one that says that Nureyev defected mainly because he wanted to experience another school of dance.
Having already been the best in one of the three most prestigious and demanding dance schools in the world (Russian school), he reached out to create a life where he could dance and be a disciple in both the French and the Danish school. To complete his masterpiece and to become one of the greatest of all.
His defection was his Nureyev Movement.
The Nureyev Movement is a movement to hear your gut’s voice when your life is under threat out of repeating yourself in the safety of being excellent in a small stage where you could be groundbreaking in a larger stage. It requires far more daring risks and a demanding training in more and more skills that complement your core values to allow natural births of new, fresh, inspiring revelations. It is not flamboyant like his personality was, it is secretive and fearful. It is not rebellious and heroic, it is loyal and humble. Like a mother that wants to protect and to nourish the primal reason of being for each individual existence.
His talents were deliberate to allow the world stage to experience breakthrough expressions and choices that changed the masculine presence in a traditional field of art. Nureyev may have enjoyed the benefits of a successful career but he was more than a successful artist and a gifted persona.
One of the most depressing conversations I have with friends or people I know is about changing my job.
I am so passionate regarding the fact that a better and more suitable work is out there for me and how much I really want to take the risk of change. The minute I express it clearly and thoroughly to people out there, I get the feeling that I am from another planet. Most of the times there is no positive reaction. Instead I could finish people’s sentence as they are almost immediately getting ready to tell me that I should not quit my job, after all it’s well paid, in times like this, no matter if I like it or not, no matter if I feel that I can no longer offer the people there and the organization anything of me anymore and no matter if I can go on like this or not. What seems to be of a higher value is stability and conformity.
Recently, on those moments, I safeguard my vision by reverting to Nureyev’s documentaries, where many many gracious movements of his grand career have been filmed. Admiring his masculinity as a ballet dancer, his strong eye gaze and cheekbones, and his gracious pirouettes, arabesques and duets, it is most certain that if he hadn’t pursued his freedom at any cost, the world would have experienced a lesser male dance artistry. A form of great beauty would have forever not existed. And “ever” is a heavy choice.
A choice is not only a personal movement. Universal movements are energized as a greater choreography is being formed. Nureyev’s legacy is still dancing around. His movement is still here.