John PERCIVAL – Dance critic

Remembering Rudolf Nureyev by John Percival

When I revisit my memories of his long career in the west, it seems to me that one of the secrets of Nureyev’s success comes from the fact that he did more than was necessary in everything he undertook. He told me that as a dancer he started early and conscientiously developing the possibilities available to male dancers, proving that a principal dancer can be just as gracefully subtle and expressive as a ballerina without any loss of virility. Being a classical dancer par excellence (nobody, it seems to me can equal the perfection of his last solo in Sleeping Beauty) he had also to master the contemporary styles of Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, José Limon and Murray Louis. He was always attracted to difficulty.

When he staged the “Kingdom of Shades” scene from La Bayadère, one of the members of the Royal Ballet suggested that he change a step to make his solo easier without making it any the less spectacular. Rudolf’s reply was: “How could I dance if I didn’t force myself to do things that I can’t do?”. (…) When he became director of the Garnier Opera Ballet, his never ending enthusiasm for new experiences as regards ballet, dramaturgy, music and art joined forces with his mastery of ballet and his knowledge of choreography giving him an understanding and an authority, a flair and a perspicacity on a par with those of Dame Ninette de Valois, the great founder of the Royal Ballet.

No wonder that a number of us from Great Britain went to Paris practically every month following the incredible richness of the choreography he put on offer. (…) Even though Rudolf is no longer with us, his spirit lives on in the bodies of today’s dancers.

Every time I am moved watching Charles Jude, Laurent Hilaire or Nicolas Le Riche dance, I know that they would, even so, have been good dancers but they have achieved greatness thanks to the man to whom we pay homage today.