Remembering Rudi: the tribute year begins

A year of tribute to Rudolf Nureyev has begun with an exhibition showcasing more than 80 costumes and 50 photographs from his personal collection.

Supplemented by loans from ballet companies around the world, the costumes and images are on display at the de Young fine arts museum in San Francisco. Titled Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance, the exhibition, which includes Nureyev’s doublets and tutus worn by his partners, opened on October 6 and will continue until mid February.

The de Young show, sponsored by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation, was curated by Delphine Pinasa, director of the Centre national du costume de scène (CNCS) in Moulin, France, which is the home of Nureyev’s personal collection and holds objects from Nureyev’s estate.

The tribute year marks the 20th anniversary of Nureyev’s death in January 1993.

Among the special events are the Paris Opera Ballet’s gala performance in tribute to Nureyev on March 6 and a further homage in Bordeaux from March 16-25.

Filming will begin of a Paris Opera Ballet production of The Sleeping Beauty in the gardens of Versailles next year, but the film will not be completed until 2014.

In London, the English National Ballet plans a tribute program for July, while the Royal Ballet will stage Nureyev’s Raymonda Act III as part of mixed program (December 2012 and January 2013) and Marguerite & Armand (February).

The Australian Ballet opens its year with Nureyev’s Don Quixote in Melbourne (March) and Sydney (April).

The San Francisco Ballet will present his Raymonda Act III in April, the State Opera Vienna will hold a gala evening in June, while La Scala will present Nureyev’s Swan Lake in Milan, and the Bolshoi will present his Cinderella.

One of the most interesting US articles about the San Francisco exhibition was written by Janice Berman, a former editor in chief of Dance Magazine. She interviewed the curator, Delphine Pinasa, who said that Nureyev wanted his costumes to be as thin as possible to emphasise his body. Her favourite item of the collection is his black and white costume for the 1974 production of La Bayadère, designed by Martin Kamer.

Nureyev’s doublets, according to the exhibition catalogue, all had a similar cut to allow free movement of the head, neck, torso, and arms, without gaping during lifts.

Berman wrote: “Onto these were applied decorations such as embroidery and jewels, vertically on the front, at mid-sleeve, and on the wrists. Designs by Franca Squarciapino (for Swan Lake), Nicholas Georgiadis (Raymonda), Hanae Mori (Cinderella), Cecil Beaton (Marguerite and Armand), and Toer Van Schayk (Le Spectre de la rose), among others, exemplify the range of Nureyev’s repertoire.

“Nureyev’s private aesthetic tilted toward the baronial. His Manhattan apartment in The Dakota on Central Park West had a dining room roughly the length of a football field, with a huge table covered with tapestry; the floors and walls held priceless carpets. He had a well-known collection of paintings of male nudes. He had statues and busts and photographs and Warhols.

“Nureyev liked velvet and slippers and soft suede boots. At the end of his career, dancing on Long Island, he once snuck to the doorway of the theatre, in his lush velvet Moor’s Pavane costume, to see whether a critic whom he’d newly anointed his sworn enemy was in the house.

“He wore hats like no one else; a dark-green velvet beret was long a trademark. At Lincoln Centre between rehearsals, he wore a white tennis cap as a disguise. With cheekbones like that, he didn’t have a prayer. Frankly, Nureyev could have walked across the plaza with a sack on his head and he still would have been unmistakable”.

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Costumes for Nureyev's Bayadere for himself and Noëlla Pontois

Costumes for Nureyev’s Bayadere for himself and NoĂ«lla Pontois

La Bayadere, photo © Thierry Zoccolan/AFP/Getty Images

La Bayadere, photo © Thierry Zoccolan/AFP/Getty Images

Rudolf Nureyev and Noëlla Pontois in La Bayadere, Palais Garnier, 1974. Photo © André Chino

Rudolf Nureyev and Noëlla Pontois in La Bayadere, Palais Garnier, 1974. Photo © André Chino

Nureyev's autographed shoes

Nureyev’s autographed shoes

Costume by Nicholas Giorgiadis for Nureyev in The Sleeping Beauty, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1966

Costume by Nicholas Giorgiadis for Nureyev in The Sleeping Beauty, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1966

Costume by Nicholas Georgiadis for Nureyev in Raymonda, Opéra national de Paris, 1983.  Photo © Pascal François/CNCS

Costume by Nicholas Georgiadis for Nureyev in Raymonda, Opéra national de Paris, 1983. Photo © Pascal François/CNCS

Costume by Ezio Frigerio and Mauro Pagaono for Nureyev in Romeo & Juliet, London Ballet Festival, 1977

Costume by Ezio Frigerio and Mauro Pagaono for Nureyev in Romeo & Juliet, London Ballet Festival, 1977