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Nureyev: The Life

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Rudolf Nureyev had it all: beauty, genius, charm, passion, and sex appeal. No other dancer of our time has generated the same excitement, for both men and women, on or off the stage. With Nureyev: The Life, Julie Kavanagh shows how his intense drive and passion for dance propelled him from a poor, Tatar-peasant background to the most sophisticated circles of London, Paris, ...more
Paperback, 848 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Vintage (first published September 17th 2007)
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Suzanne
I’m a lover of classical ballet, and decided a couple of years ago to read and collect dance biographies. Believe it or not, they are not always easy to find. They go out of print quickly, so when I had the opportunity to lay my hands on Julie Kavanagh’s biography of the great Rudolf Nureyev, I grabbed it.

This was a difficult book to get through. Kavanagh includes so much information, and comments from so many people that met Nureyev, that it became a chore reading it. Some of the sources obviou
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Elizabeth
I've had several teachers who worked with Nureyev, and the stories I've heard are not pretty. This biography pretty much confirmed that impression for me. Although his acts of generosity towards his proteges are carefully documented, in general I found the dancer vile. He treats so many people in his life as if they are expendable and all the beautiful dancing in the world doesn't excuse that kind of behavior.
(*UPDATE--I spoke with one of my teachers who worked with him and he changed his tune,
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Kathleen
A well-written pound of paper, this book chronicles the life of Rudolph Nureyev, the bad boy of ballet. His defection to the West left him with the sense that the only way his value could be measured was in securing as much money as possible. While reading this, I was often struck by the fact that his early life in the Soviet Union stayed with him so closely, in his attention seeking and having a fits like a toddler if he didn't get what he wanted. Though his drive to dance was always paramount, ...more
Ellen
This is a book for people who are honestly interested in dance as this is not a layman's biography of Nureyev. Filled with technical and ballet specific details, it's great for the serious ballet fan. I have just enough ballet knowledge and experience to follow most of the technical stuff, but I can see that being really boring to someone who doesn't know ballet or the stories of famous ballets. The author assumes the reader knows the story of ballets such as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, ...more
Carol
Fascinating biography. The author tells the story of Nureyev 'warts and all' with much affection. I could hardly put it down, although it took some days to read all 700 pages! I have always loved Ballet. I have supported the VSA performances here in Lynchburg etc. Went through a period or reading bios of Balanchine ballerinas. I actually saw Maria Tallchief dance on stage when I was growing up.
In the early 1990's the director of the VSA, Jan Petrus Bosman, planned a tribute VSA Ballet for Margot
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Beth
This book is amazing. I started reading it out of an objective curiosity about this person I had heard about but knew nothing. By the end of the book however I felt as if I "knew" Nureyev personally.
It is a long book, 700 plus pages. Often in a book of that length I will do a lot of skimming. That did not happen in this book. I read each and every page (although I did have to pass over the ballet terminology, of which I know nothing, and the frequent use of French, of which I also know nothing!)
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Debbie
This wasn't a perfect book but it deserves it's 5 stars. I drove me crazy trying to figure out the time frame of the chapters and the events. There were large sections and no dates - UGH! Also, it was tedious trying to keep track of all the people moving in/out of Nureyev life. So many people. But..
they way the author portrays Nureyev..fantastic.

This book is 698 pages - not including index and notes - and I couldn't put it down. I saw Nureyev dance twice. It was in the late 70s - so he wasn't a
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Surreysmum
I always have trouble getting through the end of a biography, for obvious reasons, but this one more than most because of the sadness and indignity of Nureyev's later years. Not that he was, by all accounts, a man one would want to have dinner with, but the very stubbornness, selfishness and fire in his personality which made him such an accomplished dancer (or helped to) also appear to have made the end of his too-short life most unpleasant. Possibly those close to him may have thought the earl ...more
Simon Blair
Born on a train overlooking Lake Baikal in the Russia, Rudolph Nureyev was a young man on the move who became the warp drive of spaceship ballet. He was a pop cultural phenomenon and a dance superstar who burned the stage with intensity and bravura wherever he went.

Defecting to the West in 1961 at the height of the Cold War his name vanished into whispered obscurity in his homeland while in Europe he attained stratospheric notoriety. For nearly two decades he danced with the great British balle
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Bookmarks Magazine

Julie Kavanagh knows the dance world, and it shows. The London-based journalist and former ballerina previously wrote a prize-winning biography of choreographer Frederick Ashton, and she fills Nureyev: The Life with piercing insights into both the life of her subject and the turbulent world of professional ballet. Critics loved her riveting storytelling, and though the Christian Science Monitor complained that Kavanagh dwells too long on the dancer's experiences in the "brutal anonymity of 70s g

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Anna
Um, wow. Not quite sure where to begin...this biography is beautifully written and thoroughly researched, though I did find it a little too sensationalist at times. That being said, if you are at all interested in Nureyev or in ballet this is well worth your time. About the man himself...while I was getting a little weary of him towards the end, I am left with two things: he was an incredible dancer whose contribution to world of ballet helped shape it, and also...I felt very sorry for him: he w ...more
Zoe James-williams
Fascinating insight inton Nureyev's life. An extraordinary dancer with a fiery and difficult character. contains some insightful stories but also tinged with much sadness, especially at the end. A must for anyone interested in dance
Amy
This book was fascinating -- Nureyev had an exciting life that makes for great reading. There are no ballet dancers today that even approach the star power and broad appeal that Nureyev had. I'm not sure how much attraction this book would have for someone without a fairly serious interest in ballet, but for someone with a passion for the art form, this was a terrific book. The author is quite descriptive about the ballets that were created for Nureyev, as well as the ballets he created or resta ...more
Carly
Apr 12, 2012 Carly marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
As the antidote to all the children's and YA lit I read for work...an absolute monster of a biography about the most dynamic male ballet icon (other than Misha, obvs.) of the modern age. I hope I hope I hope it's as good as I want it to be!

...it is now past time to admit defeat. Maybe someday I'll pick this up again, but it was just too dense, and he was too arrogant for me to stay interested. I've dealt with too many dance divas in my real life to want to devote my leisure reading to any. I did
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Barbee
This book is amazing just for the shear volume of facts it contains about Nureyev and the detailed picture of his life the reader comes away with. It was almost voyeuristic. If you want to really find out how at least one ultra-rich ultra-celebrity lives, this is the book for you. I think I'm fairly opened minded, but I found all the info on his sex life almost TMI! I skimmed or skipped some of the sections that analyzed Nureyev's choreography or style of dancing certain ballets, but I appreciat ...more
Ruth
It took me almost two years to read this book, but it's really not the book's fault. Yes, it's over 700 pages long, but due to the fact that I have a very heavy and high quality copy I never wanted to lug it anywhere or read it while eating breakfast. So, I read it in small increments before I went to bed for a very long time. But it was well worth it -- a richly detailed account of Nureyev's fascinating life. It would have been nice if there were a little more analysis and larger picture discus ...more
Jahan Genet
The writing is a bit ridiculous, but I suppose one reads a biography for its subject and not the writing...? I do love Nureyev and after seven hundred pages I feel I know probably too much about him. I'd also say that approximately two hundred of those pages are basically him slowly dying and, in the end, its a relief just to be finished.

Side note: reading this book did [inspire?] a fantastic dream in which 'Rudik' and I are lounging on a couch and Jackie-O approaches us, hugs me and tells me ho
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Julia Hendon
A mammoth work, this biography is the definitive recounting of Nureyev's life. The author draws on an astounding amount and variety of materials. She makes effective use of interviews, unpublished documents, and many other sources. While honest about Nureyev's faults, the author also provides a convincing assessment of his talents, achievements, and legacy. The latter emerges most clearly in the comments of dancers who, as young members of the Royal Ballet, Paris Opera, or other companies, benef ...more
Jim
Very good book. The end was pretty hard to read because it was so sad. It took quite a long time to read but it was worth it to read a good book about that world by someone schooled in dance. He really had an amazing life coming from NOTHING in Siberia... wearing rags on his feet instead of shoes and walking with his mother all day to get a few potatoes... and going on to entertain heads of state in every major world capitol and party with the most famous dancers, writers, movie stars, musicians ...more
Glenn
Great biography of a Russian trying to live in the U.S., an immense talent trying to live among ordinary people, a gay man trying to live among other closeted gays. Kavanagh's balance of minute detail for the ballet/dance expert (which I'm not, but want to be) with candid details of Nureyev's sex life is impressive. Only fairly minor complaint: wish she'd spent a bit more time exploring and interviewing Rudolph's lovers (those still living) for a more nuanced view of his romantic existence.
Kerry
Yo! I can't believe I stuck with this book of nonfiction. I can't believe I read it. It was compelling. An amazing morass of ego and dedication, and intriguing in terms of the wealthy famous fan base. Still, I'm ready for some fiction. But I feel so accomplished. But this book has it all... angst, drama, teeth-gnashing, beauty, evil, faith, fear, hubris, taught & stringy.... whatever... I still can't believe I stuck with it. But it is epic. And, holy cow, it's real, too.
Pat
I read this after I saw the documentary on Nureyev's early life so there is a lot that is redundant in the first part of the book - though more detailed. A very narcissistic man, but, as with so many true artists, it seems to come with the territory, No holds barred here. There are frank discussions of his relationship with Erik Bruhn when he first came West and the longer-term relationship with Margot Fonteyn as well as the end. A good book, but a big book.
Chiara
Finally made it to the end. Some pages you literally fly through them, others are terribly boring to the point you start wondering if it's the same author. I was always fascinated by the man and missed one of his performances just a few miles from where I lived at the time because of too little publicity, you would have thought in the early 80's people would have known better than not talk about him coming to the area to dance...
Virginia
The definitive biography, based on years of research, visits to Nureyev's childhood places and extensive interviews. This is just an excellent book and provides a well-balanced view of a controversial figure. She allows his genius to show through without glossing over some of the narcissism which he often displayed. Great background of soviet Russia,
Susanne Clower
This book is really long but structured in a way that kept me going, even through some of the dance details that I really didn't get, not being a balletomane myself. He was a fascinating man, dedicated to his art but also capable of cruelty. The story of his defection touched me.
Jaq
incredible life - amazing but very flawed personality. How can someone be so selfish and yet so generous at the same time. Really interesting discussion of raising of awareness of HIV in the early days of the virus. Verylong book but worth the read.
Abi
This was a fascinating book, despite the fact that Nureyev himself didn't come across as particularly pleasant. But it was really interesting to see the enormous impact he had on dance and, in essence, to get the full story of a man who is really a legend.
Cherry Radford
A fantastic read - sympathetic, well-researched. I have to say I fell in love with him. A narcissistic, impetuous, difficult man with (delightfully) filthy language – but also a hard working, striving-to-learn genius, and a kind and generous friend.
Phyllis
This is a fascinating and very, very comprehensive biography of Nureyev. Much information about classical ballet is offered, and the author has researched and documented in a most professional manner.
Highly recommended, but not a 'quick' read by any means.
Jason
Aug 10, 2009 Jason added it
I'm really quite curious as to how one writes a 700 page biography while saying absolutely nothing. I found this bio tedious and boring. There was no new information about Nureyev in it and yet it rambled on for 700 pages!
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