“For me, purity of movement wasn’t enough.
I needed expression, more intensity, more mind.”
There is no doubt that he was a virtuoso dancer, but, in addition to his outstanding technique acquired from relentless practice, he also knew how to act his dancing roles, giving his ballet a dramatic reality equal to that of the theatre or the cinema.
Rudolf Nureyev made a great contribution to the reappraisal of male ballet and, by working with contemporary choreographers, went far beyond the “classical / modern” divisions. His influence on ballet compares with the significance of that made on opera by Callas: the way characters in opera behaved and sang was never the same again. Since Nureyev, it has become essential for ballet dancers to put tremendous effort into their roles.
It was whilst he was appearing with the London Royal Ballet that Nureyev was able to meet choreographers such as Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan, Glen Tetley, and Roland Petit. He got to know their language, discovered also some of the youngest choreographers such as Rudi van Dantzig, and helped them to become better known.
Rudolf liked the choreographers very much. He always maintained that ballet could not progress without them. Nureyev gauged the importance of the explorations of the contemporary ballet well. Having himself trained in American “modern dance”, from Martha Graham to José Limon – a ballet rooted in the ground as opposed to classical ballet which tries to distance itself from it – he started to include, in his own choreographies, and in his interpretations of the Marius Petipa “classics”, certain elements copied from “modern techniques”.