Item Description
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.