Tribute to an old friend: Rudolf Nureyev

The younger generation might no longer be aware of it but a special tie binds Rudolf Nureyev, English National Ballet and the London Coliseum. To honour the 20th anniversary since Rudolf Nureyev’s death and to celebrate this connection Tamara Rojo dedicates the last production of the season to the legendary dancer. A regular guest with the Festival Ballet Company (today ENB) at the end of the Seventies, Nureyev has been a key figure in raising the Company’s status and solidifying the Coliseum as ENB’s London home.

A short film opens the evening of celebrations with several dancers who had come in contact with Nureyev paying homage to his dedication and thirst for artistic experiences. Petrushka, Rojo’s tribute to Nureyev as an interpreter, follows this moving documentary. A classic from the Diaghilev Period, the Fokine piece features a double narration: behind the general merriment of the Butter Fair hides the internal anguish of Petrushka the puppet held prisoner by the Charlatan (Arionel Vargas). Following the steps of Nijinky and Nureyev’s legendary interpretations, Anton Lukovkin splendidly fills the role. Supporting his tender slapstick movements, are Fernanda Oliveira as the Ballerina and Yonah Acosta as the Moor.

The second piece celebrates Nureyev the artist. As a dancer and man, he was Maurice Béjart’s source of inspiration for Song of a Wayfarer. With music by Gustav Mahler, the piece features a touching duet on the theme of the doppelganger – a man dancing with his shadow. Profoundly personal, as metaphorically related to Nureyev’s life and the drama of the defection, it also celebrates the reason of his defection: dance and his enormous gift as a performer. Accompanied by Nicholas Lester’s voice, Francisco Bosch and Fabian Reimar melt into the movement alternating joy and grief.

Raymonda Act III closes the evening. Celebrating Nureyev as a choreographer, it features the spectacular reconstruction of a palace banqueting hall. The icon like tapestries and old mural paintings offer a beautiful background for the great technicality the piece requires. Definitively a ‘show off’ piece, for the many difficult solos, it allows Rojo to reveal the skill of her dancers. Notably, Elena Gludjidze’s beautiful interpretation of Raymonda and variations by Nancy Osbaldeston and Erina Takahashi.

The evening is a reminder that Nureyev brought artisty, Russian technique and repertory to Western Europe. By celebrating him Rojo is paying homage through the whole company.

Katja Vaghi