Russian dancer, choreographer and ballet director Rudolf Nureyev, was born in a train between Lake Baikal and Irkutsk in Siberia 17 March, 1938. He was one of the true superstars of 20th-century dance. Many compared him with legendary Nijinsky.
He started his ballet training in Ufa at the age of 11 and after 6 years, moved to the Vaganova Leningrad ballet school, where he studied under A. Pushkin. In 1958 he became a soloist of the Kirov Ballet.
In 1961 he went on a tour with the company, and defected in Paris, launching his carrier in the West.
Nureyev's first performances were with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas; in 1962 he appeared on the American television and danced with Chicago Opera Ballet. In the same year he signed a contract with the Royal Ballet, London as a permanent guest soloist. He never became a member of a Western company, preferring to collaborate with different troupes temporarily.
Work with Eric Brun and partnership with Margot Fonteyn were great influences on his artistic development He danced with her in Giselle, in Marguerite and Armand by F. Ashton, in Swan Lake and in many other ballets.
He created roles in numerous works by many different choreographers, including F. Ashton, R. Petit (Benois de la Danse laureate), M. Bejart (Benois de la Danse laureate), R. van Dantzig (Benois de la Danse laureate) and G. Balanchine.
Nureyev's versatile talent permitted him to be equally successful in contemporary repertoire. He danced in M. Graham's spectacles, and she created for him and Margot Fonteyn Lucifer (1975), where the titular hero was presented as a prototype of the creative artist rather than as Satan. He also danced in the works by P. Taylor and M. Louis.
In 1964 he began to choreograph. His first production was Swan Lake that he made for the Vienna Opera Ballet and where the role of Prince became dominant. In 1977 he created his version of Romeo and Juliet by S. Prokofiev for the London Festival Ballet; in 1979, Manfred for the Paris Opera Ballet; in 1980, The Nutcracker in Berlin.
In 1962 Nureyev published his Autobiography. In 1973 he directed, together with R. Helpmann, a film-ballet Don Quixote where he also danced the role of Basile. He appeared in principal roles in films Valentino (1977) and Exposed (1983).
From 1983 to 1989 he was director of the Paris Opera Ballet, where he created his versions of the great Russian classics, such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère and also Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet by S. Prokofiev. All these productions are still in the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire.
Rudolf Nureyev was a member of the first Benois de la Danse jury in 1992. He died in Paris on 6 January 1993.