Soviet dancer asks for asylum
By our own reporter
June 17, 1961
The Leningrad State Kirov Ballet Company arrived in London yesterday to open a four-week stint in Covent Garden without Rudolf Nureyev, one of its leading male dancers. According to a Reuters report from Paris, he decided, just as a plane was leaving there with the other members of the company, to seek political asylum in France.
In London, Mr. Korkin, the director of the company, said through an interpreter that Nureyev had to return to Russia because his mother was unwell. He added that he had been unaware of Nureyev’s absence until the plane took off. He had not noticed any incidents at Le Bourget airport, but had since received a message explaining the matter.
Reports from Paris indicate that two Russians approached Nureyev in the departure lounge and told him that he should return to Moscow. Nureyev asked permission to say goodbye to his colleagues and the trio was joined by ballet teacher Constantin Segueev. A discussion ensued. The rest of the company boarded the plane and Nureyev quickly broke through the barrier where two French police inspectors were standing and shouted in English: “I want to be free.”
He was taken to the police station and later, in the presence of the Soviet consul general and an official from the Soviet embassy, he told the airport police that he had freely and voluntarily decided to remain in France. Soviet officials tried in vain to persuade him to change his mind and, “looking relaxed and cheerful,” took him to the police headquarters in Paris, where one official said his post would be “regularized.”
The desertion of a dancer
The Observer, June 18, 1961
The Russian newspapers did not mention Rudolf Nureyev, the brilliant young dancer of the Leningrad Kirov ballet who sought political asylum in France as his company was about to leave Paris for London.
Yesterday morning he left Paris with an undisclosed destination, after the French authorities granted him permission to remain in France. Meanwhile, 30 members of the Kirov Ballet visited the Golders Green Racecourse last night to see the Royal Ballet perform Les Deux Pigeons. The company opens tomorrow in Covent Garden, but Nureyev would not have been required until Sleeping Beauty began on Friday.
Nureyev’s defection will rob London, at least for the moment, of the opportunity to see one of the three or four best dancers in the world. Even the Russian authorities describe him as “a great dancer with a bright future.” He was the sensation of the company’s season in Paris and was to have danced several lead roles in London.
Nureyev, twenty-three, slim and blond, has high cheekbones and slanted eyes that reveal his Tatar ancestry. But with his street clothes (skinny pants and sweater) and forward cut hair, he could be mistaken for an English art student. In fact, he speaks English well (but not a word of French) and was looking forward to his visit to London. Like other members of the company, he is something of an Anglophile.
It is not a product of the Leningrad school. He started his career in a provincial hobby company and joined the Leningrad company only three years ago. Obviously, he did not fit into the ensemble too easily: he has been criticized for not having learned so far “that the leading role is, after all, only part of the artistic ensemble that even the most gifted first dancer it must subordinate their individuality. “
Interestingly, his style is very much the type that has been associated with Leningrad (as opposed to Moscow), possessing surprising elegance and authority. Add to that superb technique and compelling dramatic power.
He is one of those lucky artists who only have to go on stage to master it. His surprising new take on the fairytale prince in Sleeping Beauty, with his mischievous wit and royal disdain, would be highly appreciated by audiences in Covent Garden.
In paris yesterday Serge lifar He declared that Nureyev’s decision to remain in France was a “disaster for the Leningrad ballet, of which he was the undisputed protagonist. Nureyev recently received the Nijinsky Prize, the No. 1 dance award in the Soviet Union. Serge golovine and he is, in my opinion, the two best male dancers in the world, ”said Lifar.
Standing ovation for Nureyev
Paris, June 23, 1961
A packed theater tonight gave Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev a standing ovation at his first appearance since he applied for political asylum here last week. The audience applauded and cheered for the special announcement at the start of the performance that he would appear in the role of Prince Florimond in Sleeping Beauty in the company of the deceased. Marquis de Cuevas. Special police officers patrolled the theater, but there were no incidents.
Rudolf Nureyev goes on
By Peter Lennon
January 31, 1962
Paris said goodbye to Rudolf Nureyev, the Kirov Ballet dancer who, in a dramatic career at Le Bourget airport, separated from his Russian colleagues and sought asylum in France. Unsurprisingly, having abruptly abandoned her home, language, friends, and family environment, she found that the new world she had immersed in did not automatically provide her with all the comforts she needed.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism