Dress Rehearsal, A Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev

English National Ballet are back at the Coliseum this week, with a very special performance: A Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev. The legendary Russian dancer would be 75 this year. Twenty years after his tragic death, to celebrate his life, dance, and artistry in the theatre that was home to the then London Festival ballet is an event not to be missed.

Tamara Rojo’s choices of repertoire are perfectly fitted for the occasion, and we can expect a fitting tribute indeed.

After an introductory commemorative documentary, the company opens with Fokine’s Petrushka, anchoring the evening in Nureyev’s schooling. A part performed by him often, it reminds us of his love for character roles, the Theatre – with a capital T- but also of his sensitive interpretation. Expect colourful scenery, period costumes, use of puppetry and candid expressions.

Song of a Wayfarer is next. It is, I think, one of Maurice Bejart’s most exquisite creations. As Jose Edaim explains in the documentary: ‘Maurice Bejart was inspired by the life of Nureyev. He didn’t have a home but everywhere he went he was home’. A duet for two men set to music by Gustav Mahler, Song of a Wayfarer puts into dance, ideas that Rudolf himself felt so strongly about. It shows male dancers in all their strength, embodying their masculinity, but having the freedom to express on stage the fragility of life, of love and of dance.

Rudolf loved the classics. He loved them so much he re-staged quite a few of them on the best companies in Western Europe. Raymonda – adapted from Marius Petipa’s original ballet is a great example of his choreographic talent. At a time when creatives around him were turning to more modern forms of expression, Nureyev stayed true to the classical form. His work as a choreographer greatly contributed to bringing the tradition of classical ballet into the next century. To finish the evening with Act III of Raymonda, in all its dazzling splendour, is a tribute to his extraordinary talent.

For Nureyev was after all,  a performer as shown in Fokine’s Petrushka, an artist like Bejart so well expressed in Song of a Wayfarer, and a creator, respectful of tradition, yet yearning for more .

Alexandra Desvignes