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In 1961, the Kirov's leading male dancer, Konstantin
Sergeyev, was injured, and Nureyev was chosen to replace him on the
Kirov's European tour. In Paris, his performances electrified
audiences and critics, but he broke the rules about mingling with
foreigners, which alarmed the Kirov's management.The KGB wanted to
send him back to the Soviet Union immediately. As a subterfuge,
they told him that he would not travel with the company to London
to continue the tour because he was needed to dance at a special
performance in the Kremlin. When that didn't work they told him his
mother had fallen severely ill and he needed to come home
immediately to see her.He knew these were lies and believed that if
he returned to the U.S.S.R., he would likely be imprisoned, because
KGB agents had been investigating him.

On June 16, 1961 at the Le Bourget Airport in Paris, Rudolf
Nureyev defected with the help of French police. Within a week, he
was signed up by the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas and was
performing The Sleeping Beauty with Nina Vyroubova. On a tour of
Denmark he met Erik Bruhn, a dancer who became his lover, his
closest friend and his protector for many years
Although he petitioned the Soviet government for many years
to be allowed to visit his mother, he was not allowed to do so
until 1989, when his mother was dying and Mikhail Gorbachev
consented to the visit. During this visit, he was invited to dance
with the Kirov Ballet at the Maryinsky theatre in Leningrad. The
visit gave him the opportunity to see many of the teachers and
colleagues he had not seen since he defected, including his first
ballet teacher in Ufa

Rudolf Nureyev's dance career spanned 3 decades,
from 1958/59 with the Kirov in Leningrad to 1992 when he staged his
final production of La Bayadere at the Paris Opera; He danced
with great energy and spirit, constantly on the move performing
with dance companies all over the world, some of which are listed
below, and in one instance getting arrested in Toronto for dancing
in the street. His incredible vitality and insatiable
curiosity enabled him to perform diverse roles from Princes to
puppets, 19th century heroics to modern comedy

When Rudolf Nureyev landed dramatically in the West
in 1961, abandoning the Kirov Ballet on the tarmac of Le Bourget
airport, he was hailed as the most sensational male dancer since
Nijinsky, changing the male dancer's role from one of support to
one of dominance. He performed leading male roles with virile
virtuosity, romantic grace and stylish high spirits. He
re-choreographed ballets such as and Don Quixote making them more exciting and strikingly
personal versions of the classics leaving him free to display
his sharp, clean footwork and his tremendous leaps and turns in the
air

His debt to his Kirov training was evident in his
expressiveness, scrupulous attention to detail and a pure melodic
line. Always striving for perfection, he continued his dance
education throughout his life. He often appeared on TV and in
movies. Never afraid to learn something new, for "Exposed", a
film made in Paris with Nastassia Kinski, he learned to play the
violin like a maestro in a week and to fire a revolver. He
also co-directed a film of his Don Quixote and in 1992 learned to
conduct an orchestra.

The Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation hopes Rudolf Nureyev's
spirit and energy will be a continuing influence on the art
of dance. He set the standard for us to follow

In Nureyev had affairs with the legendary
lead singer of "Qween" Freddie Mercury, with Elton John, and
according to rumors, even with an unforgettable Jean Marais. But
his biggest love was a dancer Erik Bruhn, the star of the dance,
the huge growth in Dane, danced in "Giselle." Their romance lasted
until 1986, when Bruno had died of AIDS.