Perpetual Motion: The Public and Private Lives of Rudolf Nureyev


With his electrifying leaps and volatile personality—both onstage and off—Rudolf Nureyev changed the role of the male ballet dancer for all time. A star from the moment of his celebrated defection in 1961, Nureyev was an instant sensation in the dance world, the first male ballet performer to become an international sex symbol. His partnership with Dame Margot Fonteyn lives in the memory of all who saw them. In later years, well past his peak, Nureyev led a succession of international dance ensembles across the ...
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With his electrifying leaps and volatile personality—both onstage and off—Rudolf Nureyev changed the role of the male ballet dancer for all time. A star from the moment of his celebrated defection in 1961, Nureyev was an instant sensation in the dance world, the first male ballet performer to become an international sex symbol. His partnership with Dame Margot Fonteyn lives in the memory of all who saw them. In later years, well past his peak, Nureyev led a succession of international dance ensembles across the world's stages. At an age when most dancers have long retired, Nureyev continued performing because, as Otis Stuart tells us, for Nureyev, to dance was to live. After a brilliant reign as both star and enfant terrible, however, Nureyev's last years were marked by controversy and turmoil in his tenure as director of the Paris Opera Ballet. At the same time, he was dying of AIDS, a fact that he never publicly acknowledged. Now, for the first time, Perpetual Motion shows us the two sides of Nureyev—public and private—as they have never been seen before. From his impoverished childhood in a village in Stalinist Russia to his early days with the Kirov Ballet—where his rebellious behavior was widely enough known to catch the interest of the KGB, which began a file on him—Nureyev's early years would shape his later life. The terror of Stalinism taught him to keep his private life secret, especially since his homosexuality could have landed him in prison or worse. In fact, reports Otis Stuart, it may have been Nureyev's homosexuality, as much as his desire for creative freedom, that caused his sensational "leap to freedom" at the Paris airport in 1961. Itwas shortly after his defection that Nureyev met two people who would change his life: Erik Bruhn, then the reigning male dancer in the West (soon to become Nureyev's lover, even as Nureyev displaced him in the public imagination), and Dame Margot Fonteyn, who, at forty-two, seemed an unlike

In the first full-scale biography of Rudolf Nureyev since his death from AIDS in 1993, Stuart tells Nureyev's story "with wit and grace" (Chicago Sun-Times). "No dancer in history has been so splendidly characterized in the written word."--Francis Mason, Ballet Review. of photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this first biography since Nureyev's death from AIDS in 1993, dance critic Stuart casts an insider's eye on the public and private lives of this icon of ballet artistry and Cold War intrigue. Born in 1938 on board Russia's transcontinental railway near Irkutsk, Nureyev experienced a childhood of poverty that fueled his voracious adult appetites for dance, sex and money. According to the author, the young Kirov Ballet star's 1961 escape from Soviet agents in Paris and his defection to the West had more to do with ego than politics. Stuart chronicles Nureyev's tenacious ability to sustain a lucrative performing career well into middle age despite being HIV infected for a decade. Coupled with his phenomenal work ethic was Nureyev's temper: he sent two colleagues to the hospital with kicks to the rear. Against the backdrop of Nureyev's legendary partnership with Margot Fonteyn, Stuart provides a brutally frank portrait of his very active homosexual conduct-never publicly acknowledged-in the era before AIDS. Among a wealth of anecdotes, we learn how, during a Melbourne performance with the Australian Ballet, Nureyev was detained during intermission by the vice squad in a public lavatory, where he had stopped for ``a quickie'' with ``a young, tall bloke.'' The company held the curtain; Fonteyn was enraged. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Library Journal
The headline-making career of international ballet star Nureyev-defection, legendary partnership with Margot Fonteyn, artistic directorship of the Paris Opera Ballet-was in contrast with a private life that remained largely hidden. He died in 1992 from AIDS, without publicly acknowledging either his homosexuality or his illness. Stuart, contributor to such magazines as Vanity Fair, Elle, and the Village Voice, emphasizes the life of the artist offstage. Nureyev's sexual adventures, wealth, and eccentricities, rather than his artistic and professional accomplishments, are the focus of this book, which Stuart researched and wrote in less than a year. The sensationalism wears thin, and Stuart's pop-culture approach will leave most readers wanting a more substantive, well-balanced book on this dancer, who so greatly changed the look of ballet. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/94.]-Joan Stahl, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
Bonnie Smothers
This first full-fledged biography of the "greatest male ballet dancer" of our times since his death from AIDS in 1992 traces his achievements and discloses the private life he managed to obscure so well from the media. Stuart convincingly tells how Nureyev, a dancer of boundless energy and appetite, changed the role and image of male ballet dancers with his athleticism and sexuality. In trying to impart an epic quality to his biography, Stuart's Rudik, Rudi, Rudolf three-part structure proves conducive to revealing Nureyev's drive and personality. Beginning with Rudik, of Tartar descent, a child born on a train, Stuart reveals a peripatetic young life, spent traveling in Stalin's Russia from place to place, over great distances, living off relatives, surviving by the wiles of a mother determined to keep her family intact during some mean times until they could rejoin their military father. As one ballet dancer remarked, "He was born on a train and spent the rest of life going 100 miles per hour." The celebrated defection at the Paris airport ended Nureyev's Russian connection. Then there is Rudi, a dynamo on stage, wildly promiscuous in his private life. He became an international sex symbol. To director James Toback during negotiations for "Exposed", Rudi said, "You don't really expect me to go without sex for more than ten or eleven hours, do you?" As Rudolf, at the height of his fame, he worked ceaselessly; he had homes across the world. Stuart discloses that Nureyev had likely been HIV-positive for a decade. But, he fought his disease, working up to three months before his death. On hearing that Clark Tippett, the American dancer, had been diagnosed with AIDS, Rudolf said, "Tell him never to stop dancing." Such an indomitable will is fascinating to encounter, and taken with all the other vignettes about Nureyev's career (the fiery and devoted friendship and ballet partnership with Dame Margot Fonteyn and his difficult later years in Paris), this life story illuminates the nature of creativity on many levels. The writer's style is tiresome at times, but that doesn't deter readers from satisfying their curiosity about a fantastic dancer or in recalling images of the dancer in motion.
Examines the 20th century's most famous male dancer's stormy early years as a dancer in Leningrad; the undisclosed circumstances of his defection to the West; his homosexuality; his love affairs and notorious sexual escapades; his tempestuous partnerships with the world's most famous ballerinas; his decade-long battle with AIDS; and, above all, his consuming dedication to his art. Illustrated with b&w photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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A portrait of the ballet star--his electrifying career & his often controversial private life, including his relationships with Dame Margot Fonteyn, dancer Erik Bruhn, & his battle with AIDS. B&W photos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780808161899
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/25/1994
  • Pages: 317

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