The day I was bewitched by Rudolf Nureyev: 'The Royal Ballet treat me like an electric rabbit'

Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn rehearsing at Covent Garden, 1963
Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn rehearsing at Covent Garden, 1963 Credit: Getty 

As a new film tells the story of Rudolf Nureyev’s famous defection to the West, 
Roderick Gilchrist recalls an extraordinary encounter with the mercurial superstar

My lunch with Rudolf Nureyev had been arranged with the Royal Ballet press office for one o’clock sharp at The Connaught, one of Mayfair’s grandest hotels. It was the spring of 1976 and the Russian would be coming directly from rehearsals at the opera house.

“Don’t be late,” I was counselled. “He can be a monster if he’s angry.”

I’d been invited to interview the Royal Ballet’s mesmeric star – whose headline-making defection from the Soviet Union in 1961 is the subject of a new biopic, The White Crow – to promote a season in which he...

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