The NUREYEV film revives famed dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s life with a multi-textured weaving of biographical quotes from memoirs, along with quotes from his friends and colleagues.
Archival footage complements these testimonials, documenting his growth from an impassioned young soloist to a masterful artist, as he partners with prima ballerina, Dame Margot Fonteyn, at The Royal Ballet and performs Martha Graham’s dramatic modern choreography.
The documentary also incorporates historical footage to situate Nureyev’s life within the relevant socio-political context, while beautifully shot modern dance vignettes illustrate some of Nureyev’s inner thoughts and struggles – sometimes accompanied by narrative text. In general, the little snippets intermingle seamlessly.
Nureyev’s captivating star quality shines throughout. The audience can glean his charisma through candid video clips, that show Nureyev cheekily winking as he poses for a mug shot in San Francisco, languidly greeting a tidal wave of admirers with a rose in hand and chatting on television talk show interviews.
His unwavering dedication to dance also appears at the forefront. We discover that Nureyev learned cultural dances from local groups and was taught ballet as a young boy by a 70-year-old former dancer who lived in his remote village.
Nureyev’s desperate desire to learn to dance, saw him suffer beatings from his father for sneaking out to take classes and see shows at night. This prompted him to leave home and set him on a path that propelled him to receive rigorous formal training in Stalingrad.
‘NUREYEV’ explores the political and emotional significance of the dancer’s defection from Russia, while he was on tour in Paris with Kirov Ballet. With his freedom he took to the stage in Paris, dancing amidst bottles crashing on stage thrown from political detractors, while his friends and family faced repercussions in his former homeland.
Rudolf did not often speak of his mother country, and his silence prevented his friends and family further grief in his former homeland. However, one of the most interesting vignettes depicts his ethnic Tatar heritage in the form of a duet, as Nureyev explains the difference between differentiates them from other Russians.
Witnessing Nureyev’s impact on the ballet world is exciting, but his emergence as a cultural icon is equally impressive, as he introduced ballet to a much wider audience.
Currently, as dance has gained validity as a visually appealing avenue for advertising, it has lost space in the news, barely even appearing in newspaper and magazine sections supposedly dedicated to both dance and theatre.
So, the film also stirs question of ‘How can dancers capture the public’s attention – and interest them in artistry, as well as the spectacle?’
The documentary shares multiple perspectives of Nureyev, including his arrogance and emotional turbulence. It provides great insight into this passionate, enigmatic character. At the end, you will feel as if you understand Nureyev, but you will be hooked by his alluring persona – and eager to know even more.
Check the film’s trailer and dates/location for screenings near you.