In 1961, on tour in Paris, the Kirov Ballet’s star made a historic dash from his KGB bodyguards into the arms of French police. But was there more to his defection than meets the eye? A BBC film tells the story
The day after Rudolf Nureyev defected to the west, the Daily Express ran the story on its front page under the triumphant headline “dance to freedom”. So began the mythologising of ballet’s most famous star, the wild and beautiful dancer who, in a moment of daring on 16 June 1961, escaped his KGB bodyguards at Le Bourget airport and hurled himself across the floor to the waiting French police.
It’s a story that’s been told many times, and in several excellent biographies, but in Richard Curson Smith’s documentary for the BBC it’s given some fascinating additional layers. Using a mix of dramatic reconstruction, archive footage and smartly sourced interviews, the film highlights the forces that were in play during the events leading up to Nureyev’s defection. Analysing the power struggles taking place within the dancer’s home company, the Kirov Ballet, and within the Russian ruling elite, it suggests that the dancer may not have been sole author of his destiny, but instead was a pawn on a complicated political chessboard.
Source: Guardian Dance News