This week has been all about Russia. I’ve stayed up until 1am twice this week watching gripping docu-dramas about Nureyev’s defection and Bolshoi’s Babylon! And even though I’ve woken up exhausted, I’ve gone to sleep dreaming of prima ballerinas, jealousy, rivalry, love and revenge.
The story of Rudolf Nureyev’s defection is well known, but the dramatised version of this incredible event in Rudolf Nureyev – Dance to Freedom is absolutely compelling. Nureyev’s friends and dance colleagues tell the story of a rebellious, explosive and sublimely talented dancer who sends shock waves through the Kirov Ballet and deep into the heart of Russia.
Nureyev challenged the Russian institution, the historic and controlled Kirov Ballet and refused to be confined by what he saw as outdated and restrictive ideals. The drama follows him in the studio, onto the stage and ultimately to Paris. At the Paris Opera he meets a beautiful and rich woman who helps change his life.
There is love, spies, wealth and sensation as Nureyev conquers the stage, and tries to elude Russia in the romantic and inspiring Parisian streets. But it is the ultimate moment, played out in dramatic slow motion, of Nureyev at the airport facing expulsion back behind the iron curtain, when he desperately breaks free of the Russian secret service agents and runs into the arms of the French police in exile, that is the most exciting and emotional. It’s a little old, but it’s still great and I was lucky to watch Rudolf Nureyev – Dance to Freedom on BBC, if you’re lucky you can watch it too!
Bolshoi’s Babylon almost needs no introduction given the amount of press coverage the programme has received around the world. However, I have to say that I found it illuminating, gripping and informative. The story of the Bolshoi’s artistic director Sergei Filin, who had acid thrown in his face in the street, made headlines globally, but Bolshoi’s Babylon goes behind the curtain and delves into the culture of the famous ballet company and the events that led to this horrific attack. I have to say that the drama is so intriguing that it could be an HBO or BBC production! It reads like a script with love, betrayal, revenge and prima ballerinas all taking sides in this sad and intense episode within the Bolshoi. But the future of this historic company is almost more interesting with a new ballet director, the ‘is Filin staying or going?’, and what’s going to happen to this company that produces some of the most incredible dancers in the world. I await the next instalment of this Bolshoi drama with baited breathe, even if I’m kept up til the wee hours of the morning!