Dancer is a work of fiction about the life of Rudolf Nureyev. I am a balletomane. I first became enchanted with the art form when I read a book about Vaslav Nijinski in high school. Then my aunt took me to see the Royal Danish Ballet perform Coppelia at NYC’s Metropolitan Opera House. I was hooked. While I never got to see Nureyev dance, SHE did. And seeing Nureyev with Margot Fonteyn was the catalyst that ignited HER interest in ballet. Today my son is training to be a professional ballet dancer, and I have a special interest in male danseurs.
Going from Nijinski to Nureyev, you see an obvious connection. It’s not about their nationality, however, it’s their state of mind. They were both men obsessed with their art. It drove Nijinski to madness. I believe Nureyev suffered from another form of mental disability. Dance became so much a part of him, that he did not relate well to others. He seemed to lack empathy. His best friends, Erik Bruhn (who was his lover) and Margot Fonteyn, did indeed love him, but it perhaps it was because they understood and respected his passion for dance.
McCann captured Nureyev quite well. There was a real sense of his dance-focus, and his self-centered personality. The author also expertly lays the backdrop of Soviet Russia, along with the staggering fame, paranoia and hard-hitting party life that led Rudi down a perverse path that would eventually kill him. My only complaint was the way the McCann changed narrators – often and in a confusing way. There were many times it took me pages to figure out who was telling the story.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2004
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