Rudolf Nureyev did not just pass on his knowledge; he personified the school of life for a dancer. We have, thanks to him, been trained in the four basic rules of life.
The first: do not waste your time: “you work in a profession for the young, a profession that will come to an end very quickly. If you do not do it now, it will be too late. Roles cannot be learnt when you are 40 years of age, they must be learnt before you are 25, at most 28, years old.”
The second: enrich yourself, open up your mind, look all around, take it all in, and put yourself in the position of understanding and interpreting the choreography, not just performing it. His way of communicating and passing on to us his boundless sense of curiosity made him a being of exceptional intellect.
The third: work. Never bank on your reputation or your successes. Go through your corrections as soon as the performance is finished. Rudolf insisted that his female and male dancers leave nothing out, following technical difficulties through to their logical conclusion even at the risk of falling.
The fourth: the stage, always the stage. We danced all over the place, in the best and the worst of places, often lacking technical support, often without rehearsals. But we danced and the audience seemed happy!
I try, in turn, to pass on these rules or these principles. Rudolf is there in my mind. I can still hear his voice, his wheeze, every time I correct a dancer. Just as he, when he corrected us, could probably hear the words of his own teacher in his head.
(Extract from a Week for Rudolf Nureyev – Bordeaux National Opera – 2003 – photograph W Reilly – “Chant du Compagnon Errant”)