March 17, 1938, Irkutsk, Siberia, Soviet Union – January 6, 1993
Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev was a dancer of ballet and modern dance, one of the most celebrated of the 20th century. Nureyev’s artistic skills explored expressive areas of the dance, providing a new role to the male ballet dancer who once served only as support to the women.
Originally a Soviet citizen, Nureyev defected to the West in 1961, despite KGB efforts to stop him (according to KGB archives studied by Peter Watson, Nikita Khrushchev personally signed an order to have Nureyev killed).
As a child he was encouraged to dance in Bashkir folk performances and his precocity was soon noticed by teachers. Nureyev become a soloist at the Kirov Ballet, in three years he danced fifteen roles, usually opposite his partner, Ninel Kurgapkina.
By the late 1950s, Nureyev had become a sensation in the Soviet Union. He went in a Kirov’s European tour and setled in Paris.
Rudolf Nureyev’s first American solo broadcast 1963