the Ballet
the History

The Russian Revolution and Nureyev

In 1961, just as Fonteyn was about to retire, the world spotlight moved to the Russian Rudolf Nureyev, (1938-1993). After starting late at the ballet academy in Leningrad, Nureyev made Soviet cultural news for his "impassioned and powerful dancing" and was also noted by the security police as paying far too much attention to the west.

After the Russian Revolution ballet was saved by Anatoli Lunacharsky, the first ever People's Commissar for Enlightenment when he stated that art "creates human types and situations, which we live on from century to century and which are real to millions of people." After Lunacharsky, the Commissars allowed ballet as long as it was light and uplifting.

During the 1930s in Leningrad a ballerina made artistic director of the former Imperial Ballet, Agrippina Vaganova, (1879-1951), started to make her mark. It was in 1935 that the ballet became the Kirov Ballet. During her time as artistic director Vaganova had to deal with state regulations and do such things as change the ending of Swan Lake from tragic to uplifting. By the time the Kirov Ballet began to tour the west, Vaganova had died, however, we know her methods through her book, Fundementals of the Classic Dance, and once it was translated into English it became a "bible" of dance. In 1951, five years after her death, the Soviet government named the Leningrad Choreographic Institute after her.

After Nureyev graduated from the Kirov academy he danced with the Kirov ballet, and made news around the world as the "next Nijinsky." However, when the Kirov began to organize a Paris and London tour, his offstage disregard for Soviet ideals almost kept him from going on the tour. Then, when he was the government recalled him to the Soviet Union in the middle of the tour, he instead sought political asylum in France.

After defecting, Nureyev danced with Margot Fonteyn as a partner with many companies around the world, including the National Ballet of Canada and the Australian Ballet, becoming known with Fonteyn as "Rudi and Margot." Unfortunately for Nureyev, his hoped for association with Balanchine never materialized.

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