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BWW Interviews: La Passion Noureev, Shown at Watter Read Theater

La Passion Noureev, a film by Fabrice Herrault

The Passion Nureyev is the perfect name for this film, shown as a part of Dance on Camera and Dance Films Society at Lincoln Center. Via film clips of performances, rehearsals, trainings, and interviews, it was Rudolph Nureyev's great passion for ballet, his work, and his life which resonated throughout.

Fabrice Herrault, a dance collector/historian/film-maker with an impressive history as a dancer and ballet teacher, was commissioned by Les Etés de la Danse in Paris to make this film. All of the film clips, many from the 1960's and 1970's, came from Herrault's own collection.

Carefully, he chose not only the film clips but the music, which was of great importance to this creation. Some of these original films have no music, so he had to match the music of individual variations and ballets to the film, or he chose appropriate, if sometimes unrelated music, to be the thread that connected the dance clips to each other. It was so well done that the viewer never once felt jarred, as if the film had been made of unrelated bits. It flowed smoothly, as a full length ballet would move naturally from one section to another.

In addition to selecting and matching the music, Herrault used sections of films, including clips from I Am A Dancer, a 1972 film which included Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, Carla Fracci, and others. Every detail of this masterpiece was attended to as a top professional dancer would attend to his/her own body, technique, presentation, and heart.

In an interview, we heard Nureyev say that his knowledge came from Russia, but he had learned how to operate with this understanding in London. He was only 23 when he defected to the west, having begun his serious training late, at 17. He was still a raw talent. When asked if he had to sacrifice much to follow his career, he answered that yes. When pressed to tell what he had sacrificed, he said that was personal and, with a glint in his eyes, would keep that information to himself. It was those expressive eyes which told of his enormous passion. When asked if he felt alone, he said that we were, each of us, even twins, born alone and would die alone, so why could we not be alone. He said, too, that he knew exactly what he did vis-à-vis his public persona.

Nureyev told that he had been noticed by the renowned ballerina Dudinskaya in his Vaganova School graduation performance and was brought into the Kirov Ballet to dance with her. In London, he had insisted upon dancing with Margot Fonteyn, also an older dancer, with whom he had had a remarkable partnership for 20 years. There were clips of his dancing with other famous ballerinas, as well as sections of his training and performing with such illustrious male dancers as Erik Bruhn and Paolo Bortolucci. Bruhn and Bortolucci were also a treat for balletomanes to see, as we do not have many films of great dancers of yesterday. Their talents were varied. Bruhn said that there was no competition between them, only admiration. Bortolucci admitted to feeling a friendly competition. Nureyev's passion would carry him through and catch him before any error could interrupt his performance. There were clips of his dancing the works of great choreographers Maurice Bejart, Jerome Robbins, and George Balanchine, as well as his own choreography, modeled on the work on Marius Petipa.

It seems a shame that there was only one showing of this film. During the Q&A which followed, Herrault was asked if he would agree to donate a copy of La Passion de Noureev to the library, and Herrault answered in the affirmative. Merci Fabrice Herrault!

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From This Author Marjorie Liebert