Ballet's house of pain: no wonder Rudolf Nureyev couldn't wait to flee the Mariinsky

Rudolf Nureyev in 1960
Rudolf Nureyev in 1960

Ralph Fiennes's new film The White Crow tells the story of the flight of Rudolf Nureyev, then 23, from the Kirov Ballet (now renamed the Mariinsky Ballet) to freedom. It was performing in Paris en route to London in 1961.  

Nureyev, always a non-conformist, was told he was not allowed to go on to London, where the Czech-born promoter Victor Hochhauser had engaged the Kirov for a four week season at Covent Garden. He must return to Moscow instead. Nureyev suspected he would be arrested if he returned to the USSR, so he fled from the KGB at Le Bourget airport, and had a long and brilliant career outside the Iron Curtain. He may have cherished the dancing at the Mariinsky, but he loathed the oppression...

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