Nureyev: a Life by Julie Kavanagh


I’m a lover of classical ballet, and decided a couple of years ago to read and collect dance biographies.  Believe it or not, they are not always easy to find.  They go out of print quickly, so when I had the opportunity to lay my hands on Julie Kavanagh’s biography of the great Rudolf Nureyev, I grabbed it.

This was a difficult book to get through.  Kavanagh includes so much information, and comments from so many people that met Nureyev, that it became a chore reading it.  Some of the sources obviously didn’t know Nureyev well, and my conclusion was Kavanagh could have used a good editor.

I already knew that he had defected in Paris from the Soviet Union in 1961.  I knew he had a great dance partnership with Royal Ballet’s Margot Fonteyn.  I also knew he ended up being the artistic director for the Paris Opera Ballet, and that he died in 1993 of AIDS.

What I learned from Ms. Kavanagh’s biography was that he seemed self-absorbed, practiced the typical quick rotation of sexual partners and continued dancing long after he should have retired.

This portrayal of Rudolf Nureyev made me less appreciative of him.  In fact, I don’t think I would have liked him personally at all.  He seemed like an adolescent throughout his whole life.  But I’m not sure if that’s an accurate portrayal.  I’d rather have gotten to know “Rudik” through the eyes of one person who had a close relationship with him.  Obviously there were many who loved him.  Margot Fonteyn was one of them.  I doubt it was his talents as a dancer alone that captivated her.  I’ll have to keep searching for that better biography.

2 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2007
780 pages


About Suzanne

I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids who loves to read.
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