Swept Away

Jennifer Homans in The New Republic:

Screenhunter_01_nov_21_1008When Rudolf Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union in 1961, he became a legend overnight. He was a great dancer; but he was also a Russian, our Russian, and the instant he threw himself into the arms of the French authorities and declared, in English, “I would like to stay in your country,” the cultural cold war seemed for a brief moment to have been won. If Nureyev himself appeared stunned by the international media blitz that followed, gazing glassy-eyed into the flashing cameras, he adapted quickly to his new role. And this was not the last time he would touch a cultural nerve: he went on to become an avatar of 1960s style; and an exemplar of the celebrated vanity of the 1970s “Me Generation”; and an unabashed homosexual and, sadly, a victim of AIDS, which killed him in 1993 at the age of fifty-four. He did all of this while dancing–not sexy cutting-edge works, but nineteenth-century Russian classics such as Swan Lake and Giselle. Nureyev was the most unlikely of creatures: a serious classical ballet dancer who was also an international pop superstar.

More here.