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Nureyev: The Life Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Oct 2 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st American Edition edition (Oct. 2 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375405135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375405136
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 4.8 x 24.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #865,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The first international ballet superstar, Rudolf Nureyev (1938–1993) made headlines when he defected from Russia in 1961. His onstage partnership with the Royal Ballet's ballerina assoluta Margot Fonteyn received legendary acclaim. Formerly a Kirov star, trained by the famed ballet teacher Alexander Pushkin and inspired by Nijinsky and Stanislavsky, he shocked and seduced the West with his charismatic stage presence and his passionate, sometimes rough-edged dancing. British ballet critic Kavanagh (Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton) captures his phenomenal work ethic, his hunger for new dance experiences (with Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham and Paul Taylor) and his flamboyant life. Her writing style is both readable and sophisticated, showing Nureyev's wit and generosity alongside his carelessness and cruelty. She dissects ballet arcana like the Bournonville and Vaganova techniques—but doesn't stint on celebrity dish. Nureyev's affair with the celebrated Danish dancer Erik Bruhn, his desperate need to dance for George Balanchine and his competition with the younger ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov are detailed, alongside his relationships with Jackie Kennedy, Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger. Kavanagh presents a definitive and moving portrait of one of the 20th century's most hypnotic, ruthless and hedonistic artists. Photos. (Oct. 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for Julie Kavanagh's Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton

"Not only the best biography of a ballet figure but, far more important, a Proustian recollection of that glamorous near-mythical time, the first half of our now setting century."
--Gore Vidal

"[Julie Kavanagh is] a Nancy Mitford of ballet, mingling gossip, social history, and critical commentary. London in the twenties and thirties... is re-created from personal accounts rendered at first hand, not mined from books."
--Arlene Croce, The New Yorker

"Both critically authoritative and juicily anecdotal... An evident affection for England's first great choreographer doesn't stop Kavanagh from making fun of Ashton's unbridled snobbery and legendary meanness."
--Miranda Seymour, The Sunday Times (London)

"A remarkable achievement. It is fresh, crisp, and clear... An intimate and compelling portrait of a great artist."
--Howard Hodgkin

"A razor-sharp, often uproariously funny portrait of a demi-monde [that] is fascinating even to those poor souls with zero enthusiasm for ballet."
--Rupert Christiansen, The Spectator

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
He was born on a train as his mother and sisters journeyed to be with his soldier father. Of this unusual entrance into the world, Nureyev was to say " was the most romantic event of his life, symbolic of his future statelessness and nomadic existence."

His was a life lived from place to place from humble beginnings in a Russian village to the most luxurious surroundings the world could offer. He was an icon, libidinous, both men and women were drawn to him. The great love of his life, according to this author, was the great Danish dancer Erik Bruhn. One reason for his defection Nureyev is quoted as saying is because he wanted to learn to dance like Bruhn and "to study with Bruhn's teacher, the Russian born Vera Volkova, a childhood friend of Pushkin's."

Many were to play a part in Nureyev's life and career, They helped him in numerous ways, introductions, opportunities, advancing his talent. However, once these people had served their purpose they "became dispensable."

A trained ballet dancer Ms. Kavanagh brings insightful commentary to this stunning biography, which abounds with quotes from letters, diaries, and interviews. All of these bring an immediacy to her narrative, an accessibility, if you will, to Nureyev's thoughts and ambitions. He was, of course, a superstar, an idol who lived a flamboyant life and brought a spectacular aura to the world of dance. Nureyev the man was unparalleled, and so is his biography by Julie Kavanagh.

- Gail Cooke
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa38aebc4) out of 5 stars 30 reviews
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa39fb5f4) out of 5 stars ALL RUDI, ALL THE TIME Nov. 7 2007
By John Stahle - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Kavanagh's "Nureyev" is another first-rate dance biography, fully matching her marvelous account of Frederick Ashton. Nureyev was more a great star than a great dancer, yet his impact on male ballet dancers worldwide was transformative. Before Rudi, they were mostly earthbound dullards, either crudely straight or mincingly effeminate; after Rudi, men in ballet became nearly as turned out, pulled up, and extended as ballerinas, with a protean animalism that enabled them to live gay yet seem to love their women onstage.

Unlike her predecessor Richard Buckle, whose dance bios read like transcribed engagement books, Kavanagh offers a nearly perfect balance of details and distillation, compellingly tracing arcs in her subject's life. She pays extra attention to Rudi's first years in the West, richly detailing his two key relationships--with Margot Fonteyn, whom he ignited just as she was about to retire, and with Eric Bruhn, the one dancer he would learn from and the love of his life--plus the recasting of his dancing into a fusion of Russian and Western. Rudi's restless gay life is all there, yet without prurience. Eventually he settled down, for a time, with Wallace Potts, an all-American gay boy whose goodness and devotion shine through quite attractively (other acolytes followed). In these pages, Rudi lives just like a coddled star athlete: no matter how beastly his conduct, somebody always satisfies his needs and keeps his ego fully inflated. A fine biography and a great read.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3bffb64) out of 5 stars The man and his amazing talent Dec 27 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Rudolf Nureyev, flamboyant dancer with the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), began life on a train to the Eastern Russian front. He was the son of Tatar parents from a remote part of the Soviet Union. His father was a soldier who was rarely home. The family was extremely poor and often hungry, but his mother managed to sneak them into a performance of a ballet when Rudolf was five. He was determined from that time on to learn to dance and perform on the stage. He had the talent, determination and perseverance to succeed.

Julie Kavanagh has documented the life of this dancing man in this encyclopedic volume. She includes information about Nureyev's early training in his hometown, Ufa, his extensive training with mentor Pushkin and Pushkin's wife, Xenia in St. Petersburg. She details his defection to the West in Paris that read like a spy novel - complete with KGB operatives.

Nureyev passion for dance and for learning propels him to work with choreographers from the Paris Opera Ballet to West Side Story. Kavanagh includes titillating factoids about Nureyev's personal life - hobnobbing with the rich and famous, his womanizing, his homosexual lifestyle, and his final battle with HIV/AIDS. She also talks about his dancing.

Nureyev is first and foremost a ballet dancer and she documents his transition from the formal classical ballet style to the avant-garde modern dance styles he helped to create.

This tome, and it is a tome of nearly 700 pages without counting the extensive footnotes, acknowledgements and index, is an extensive account of a fascinating person. It is quite readable, with the caveat that there are multitudinous Russian names, ballet terminologies, and musical references. These kept me reading somewhat slower than usual.

The book also has three large sections of photographic illustrations.

Armchair Interviews says: Anyone with a strong interest in ballet history or in Nureyev himself will find this to be a very satisfying book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3c0a780) out of 5 stars Under the Spell of Nureyev July 6 2009
By tk - Published on
Format: Paperback
Julie Kavanagh is so realistic approaching Nureyev, not being under the spell of his character as most biographers do, yet, she puts you under the spell of Nureyev througout the book... and even days and days after finishing the book... You hate Nureyev, you adore Nureyev, you pity Nureyev, you love Nureyev, you admire Nureyev, you're angry towards Nureyev and thus, you live Nureyev... you live in his lonely world, you feel his frustrations, you taste his success, you touch his body... and in the end, you die with him... Such an encompassing book...
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa35701a4) out of 5 stars Love it, love him Sept. 19 2011
By Cherry Radford - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm staggered by some of the critical reviews here; I find it a very sympathetic, beautifully written and seemingly well-researched account. I fell in love with him. A narcissistic, impetuous, difficult man with (delightfully) filthy language - but also a hard working, striving-to-learn genius, and a kind and generous friend. A fascinating, essential balletomane read.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3c998a0) out of 5 stars Learning Ballet through a Life Aug. 21 2011
By FJ Sullivan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ms. Kavanagh's biography of Rudolph Nureyev provided me with an unexpected education of the world of ballet, about which I have know very little. I bought the book because as a young student I had seen Nureyev in Paris in June of 1961 in Sleeping Beauty at the Palais des Sports prior to sailing home to New York. It was while I was crossing the Atlantic that Nureyev defected. I still have the program from that ballet in Paris. With that much personal interest the well researched book transported me to the event in 1961 with the details of the defection which I have never known and filled in for me all the years afterwards until his death. I never saw him dance again after Paris where he was so impressive I remember how focused I was on his dancing ...really transfixed by his athleticism and presence. This book, which I purchased through Amazon, is an excellent preparation for understanding the complexity of ballet and for watching Nureyev's skills on videos...FJ Sullivan