March 24, 2024

Ballet – Rudolf Nureyev – Albrecht

About the Author: Suzanne Wagner
By Published On: March 24, 2024Categories: Ballet, Blog Daily

Rudolf Nureyev – Albrecht

Rudi was a soul so much like Albrecht, a childish, self-focused soul that believed that the world should evolve around him. And he had the magnetism and charisma to make that happen.
Around him …  it was not a request that we see his greatness, it was a demand! He demanded us to see him. He demanded respect and our admiration. He walked as a God would walk through this reality, always slightly above everyone else. His stage presence was profound, and it pulled us into him.
His soul embraced the hardships that such a powerful inner drive would manifest. Watching him, one could see the struggle to demand from his body what his body did not find completely natural or easy.
In him, we could see our own weaknesses, but he showed us that with a powerful mind, the physical world could be tamed.
While Albrecht (as a character) was a typical young, wealthy man in search for an adventure and to play in the games of love, Rudi was a peasant out to be seen as a king. Perhaps it was that extreme duality playing out on a stage that was so very attractive.
There was something about Nureyev that was as endearing as it was tremendously aggravating. To hold such a powerful duality inside and express it on the outside must have been a monumental task to hold. But he did it powerfully and unapologetically.
His Act I in Giselle, had the playful boyish charm, of a young man wanting more than just to be a high ranking, wealthy, and s powerful count. He was drawn to the free spirit of Giselle because he too was that free spirit.
But just as in real life, he did not often consider the consequences of his actions or words. Nureyev was known for his outlandish behavior and his disrespect for authority. He too (as Albrecht) did not consider the consequences that his charisma might have on the innocent and vulnerable emotions of Giselle.
Watching him during the “Mad Scene” at the end of Act I and then again in Act II of Giselle, were the only places I had ever seen him show real remorse for his actions.
In this studio he was a superstar that knew that all eyes were on him. His ego dominated in that space. But on the stage, we all got to see a glimmer of who he was when his ego was not allowed to dominate his personality.
We saw the part of himself on stage that he was not able to show in real life, or at least not to us.

For myself watching him in class, rehearsal and performance was a constant show of the push and the pull that was inside his soul. That conflict every dancer knew because we too felt it every day. But Nureyev had a type of unrestrained passion that he could never really keep on a leash. And that was what made him so interesting to watch. His mind could direct energy into his body, his character, into others (if you pissed him off) and most importantly out into an audience.
He was the person in control of his destiny … and he knew it. He dressed in the external world to reflect that he was a diva. He dressed in rehearsals to work, sweat, and he did not care if his clothing impressed or not.
What one could always notice with him was how his muscles magnificently laid out over his bone structure. He was “ripped”. Which was why photographers loved to take pictures of him.
His muscles played out and danced across his frame and that was because he was constantly trying to tame his frame into a ballet submission. His structure was not classically the flexible frame of most dancers. His mind told his muscles to make his bones do what was required. His muscles were constantly trying to tame the rigidity of his skeletal system.
The result was to see these powerful muscles sinewed and poking out all over the place as his mind demanded a perfection from his body that the body did not know how to easily offer up.
On a stage, he reflected that struggle that I think all men and women have around being in this physical world. We all want to feel as if we can tame the unrestrained inside us. We all relate to his determination and drive even if we don’t actually have it manifested in the external world.
Nureyev was a walking contradiction. He was gorgeous (when he was young), Slavic/Tartar ethnicity that was striking as it also was dangerous. With that beauty he could often get what he wanted but his temperament when he did not get what he saw in his mind was a raging inferno that caused most to duck and hide, or stand in stock at the inappropriateness of his disrespectful tone, his appalling choice of words, and his aggressive nature that would explode out through those powerful muscles.
Seeing him angry was an event that most shy, insecure, passive dancers would prefer to never see. But when those moments happened, it was often because he was in a clash of wills with another artist. And when it came to “style”, Nureyev believed he had much more understanding of beauty, art, and the impact of costumes, light, and music.
He would not tolerate mediocrity in himself nor in anyone else. Especially if he was dancing with them. If he did not like you … you knew it instantly.
In class with the Berlin Ballet teacher, Cora Benador, he would try to tolerate her. He did not like her classes and he was notorious for taking his cap on his head and pulling it down over his face, ignoring her exercises and just doing his own thing.
Such a thing was never done in the ballet world. It was a level of disrespect and rudeness that we never saw in our normal day. But those of us that were not fond of her classes, could not help but stifle a smile when he did it. Clearly, we did not have the courage to act out in such a manner.
I am grateful that for the most part, Nureyev liked me enough! Notice I said, “Enough!”

It was clear he saw me as a baby. (Which I was!) Most of my experiences with him were positive but I saw plenty where he was his worst and most horrible self with others.
He told me one day, “I like American dancers! They know how to work hard. They are not afraid of risk! Most German dancers are lazy because they have so much safety with the seniority system here.”

While I saw many German dancers busting ass, I understood only once I got to America and realized how cushy it was in Berlin by comparison … that he might be right.
I am grateful to have had the few but powerful encounters with Nureyev over the four years I danced with the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Nureyev was often a regular guest artist and having a chance to be continuously exposed to dancers that were at the highest level of excellence was humbling and exhilarating.
When you see such powerful levels of mental/emotional/physical control, I realized how far I still had to go.
~Suzanne Wagner~

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