Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dancer” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,919 Ratings  ·  346 Reviews
Rudolf Nureyev was a dancing genius, a celebrity with a large ego, and a private man who veiled his life in myth and deception. Daringly embellishing Nureyev's life, from his humble beginnings as a Russian peasant to his later years as a Cold War exile who earned worldwide fame, Colum McCann tells the fascinating story of ballet's greatest performer through a chorus of com ...more
Audio CD
Published February 18th 2004 by Audio Partners (first published 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dancer, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Dancer

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 26, 2016 Dem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
" This is not a biography, it's a story, a novel, a tale. For a long time I toyed with the idea of calling it a false portrait" Taken from Colum McCann's interview online.

This is the story of the life of Russian Dancer Rudolf Nureyev and the people that surrounded him and for me it was the surrounding characters that took centre stage in this superbly written novel.

I have read a few of McCann's novels some I have liked better than others but this story from the first chapter where Russian S
This is fiction, but based on the true life events of the famed Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993). Through fiction the author attempts to show readers not only the external facts of Nureyev’s life but also how he perceived his own life. We are not so much told his inner thoughts, motivations and feelings, but we watch what he does and follow the crazed, hyped celebrity life and the frenzied gay-scene that lead to his death by AIDS. He defected Russia in 1961. We see how this impac ...more
I debated over 3 and 4 stars on this one. The result of reading this book is that I am now fascinated with Rudolf Nureyev, the man. After finishing the book, I was scouring the internet for more information. That alone is an indication that the book had a big impact on me. But there were parts of it that I didn't care for.

What I liked about the book is that is wasn't just about Rudy, it was also about the settings (Russia, Paris, New York), the time period (WWII, Studio 54, emergence of AIDS), a
Blodeuedd Finland
It's a fictional story about Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nurejev. From his humble and poor Tatar upbringing, to when he studied at the famous Kirov in St Petersburg, to his jump to the west where he was adored by royalty and celebrities. And to his ultimate fall, his love affairs which brings him to his deathbed in Aids.

My problem with real characters is that I always have to google them, so yes I knew that he defected (not like I wouldn't have otherwise, he was too big for Soviet), and that he

Very brisk and rather quickly read. I picked this up idly from a friend's bookcase after a night of drinking, since I love to sleep but don't like to surrender that easily, and got through the bulk of it in one extended recumbency (semester's over, not much to do, figure I'd tack another contemporary up while I've got the time). the narrative is ideally suited for this kind of thing. McCann writes with some distinct, succinct, almost punchy sentences which follow each other so fluidly that the r
Marianne Timmons
Colum McCann actually wrote an entire chapter without a period! Now, that takes guts. Before you call the MLA police, let me at least say that it was effective and created a fabulous tone for the coked-up hustler of whom the chapter revolved. That being said, he also chose to go in and out of first and third person narrative and changed narrators often and sometimes without provocation or notice. This wasn't as successful in my opinion. I only say that because I get confused easily...I'm a blond ...more
Aug 29, 2010 Joseph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess I'm just over the let's-analyze-a-genius genre, and have been for a while. I picked this up when it came across my desk at the bookstore, because I've loved other things McCann has written, but this . . . while it is undeniably beautifully written, and parts of it are quite compelling, it turns out he subject matter just didn't do it for me, and the main character -- real-life ballet superstar Rudolf Nureyev -- is such an irredeemable jackass that I had a hard time really caring about hi ...more
Feb 09, 2011 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. He had me from the initial description of the Russian front and the building of the baths for the soldiers all the way through mid-70s gay life in NYC, a dancer's physical decline, and the end of several character's lives. I think McCann is an exquisite writer, and there were so many sentences that stopped me cold while I read the book, I had to re-read them, and then read them out loud to my companions.
I knew almost nothing of Nureyev when I started this book. I ha
"Танцовщик" представляет собой полувыдуманную историю Рудольфа Нуриева, от эпизодов его детства в Уфе до блестящих полетов по всем мировым сценам. Сразу оговорившись, что пишет роман, а не биографию, автор, тем не менее, проделал большую подготовительную работу, прочитал, умница, много книжек и исследований и даже съездил в Россию (в благодарностях, например, помимо прочих, упоминается танцовщик Мариинки Илья Кузнецов:).

Известно, что я фанат балета и потому должна была полюбить эту книжку всем
Suzanne Krueger
Apr 08, 2010 Suzanne Krueger rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I thought this was going to be about Nureyev, the great dancer/cheographer; instead it was mostly about his promiscuity and gay lifestyle. The story starts in war torn Russia, then post war Russia...if this part of the book was a color, it would be the color of dirt...gray, dismal and heartbreaking.
There is a brief description of early dance lessons and ascent of Rudolf as dancer and his subsequent defection...but from then on you are given to believe his life is one orgy after another. After aw
An advantage of the bad weather is the opportunity to finally finish this book; and a great excuse to neglect the growing list of jobs my wife manages to create with apparent ease.

Unlike Nureyev’s feet, I found myself dragging mine; hoping the next page I turned was the last. I almost volunteered to rake leaves off the lawn in the pouring rain, or decorate the kitchen again rather than struggle with the cast of twenty odd characters telling their story of Nureyev’s journey from Russia in 1940.
As the 3 stars say, I "liked it". I'm definitely ambivalent about fiction based on people who lived so recently; at least McCann had the decency to change the names of people still living (basically turning it into a bit of a roman-a-clef, whether he planned it that way or not), but I noticed that by and large the really major figures in the Western ballet world didn't get much more than an indirect word or two. Possibly they or their ferociously protective estates (Balanchine?) deterred the aut ...more
Joyce Williams
A disappointing read by one of my new favorite authors, Colum McCann. I was so looking forward to an in-depth and colorful account of Rudolf Nureyev, the defected Russian dancer who changed the world of ballet like Jordan impacted basketball. Because his story is told through the perspectives of those who knew him, Nureyev was left undeveloped and the author didn't explore what was going on in Rudi's head. I felt as though I never really understood Rudi's view-- what went into the decision to fo ...more
1. I know only a little about Nureyev (if you want, you can watch him on The Muppet Show, among other things), but while I think more knowledge would have enriched parts of Dancer, I am glad that I didn't know too much. It's an odd kind of historical fiction, not quite a biographical novel, but like one: the differences between fact and fiction are blurry. I really liked that experience, and I think it made the book richer.

2. McCann mixes first and third person narrative passages very effectivel
Beautiful!!! That is the word which best describes this biographical novel of Rudi Nureyev the great Russian ballet dancer who began life as a boy in communist Russia to later defect and live a glamorous life of opulence around the world. Rudi's story is told from the point of view of those nearest and dearest to him and while at times he seems almost completely unsympathetic based on his compulsive and diva like behaviors, the author strives to find his most human qualities and paints a beautif ...more
Apr 23, 2010 Bibliophile rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, fiction
Colum McCann's Dancer is a thinly fictionalized biography of the great Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, narrated by dozens of different people (some real, some fictional) who knew Nureyev at various points in his life. Nureyev was a fascinating and notorious man, but of course, the reason anyone cares about his life wasn't just that he was really good-looking and per Richard Avedon, hung like a horse :P It's that he was one of the great ballet dancers of the 20th century and one of the grea ...more
Feb 09, 2010 Charlaralotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Fantastico! A brilliantly imagined story about the life of Nureyev. Well-researched and well-written, with all the historical details to flesh out his journey from a small Russian steel town to the Kirov to defection to international fame and finally, the agony of the deteriorating body. Had an all-encompassing sense of historical events shaping the world and Nureyev's life that I wish McCann's more recent book, Let the Great World Spin, had reached. As with other writers, he won the Book Award ...more
Sep 27, 2015 Dorota rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Books about the Soviet Union are always fascinating to me. Scary but fascinating. Groving up in Poland, I distinctly remember my parents quiet conversations about politics, always telling us not to repeat anything and to be careful because "walls had ears". And Poland was nothing compared to USSR. There, you either supported your Motherland 100% and did whatever you were told at all times, or you were a traitor.

The book tells a story of one of their traitors, an iconic ballet dancer, Rudy Nurey
J.S. Dunn
Would have been a 2 but I personally like McCann and the research for this tale looks solid. In addition he avoids fawning over Nureyev who reputedly was indeed a jerk, not just for show.

This novel is just so precious, so self-conscious, for all its use of varied formats and points of view, sometimes sentence fragments, and sometimes run-on paragraphs with no indents and no capital letters. Chapters have the rudiments of chapters. Transition is abrupt, and not in a good way.

It resembles a creati
Aug 07, 2014 Isidora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
En biografi av Rudolf Nurejev-en av alla tiders största balettdansörer, eller snarare en roman om Nurejevs liv och konst. En rysk roman, egentligen, fast skriven av en irländare från New York.
Colum McCann skriver om den unge Rudik som dansar för de skadade soldaterna på sjukhuset hemma i Sibirien. Om nittonåringen som dansar på Kirovteatern i Leningrad. Om avhoppet till väst 1961, om alla år när han var en av de största stjärnorna och de mest omskrivna personerna i världen. Men även om hårt arb
Apr 27, 2014 Bondama rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Colum McCann is a brilliant Irish writer who, fortunately for his readers, is a compassionate, vivid and above all, wonderfully adept at bringing his characters to a wonderful life.

"Dancer"if a biography, to my knowledge, McCann's first, Back in the early 60's., the first Russian ballet dancer to defect away from the dead cultural life of the 50's-60's Soviet Union, Rudolph Nureyev. Rudy was desperately, dirt poor, but despite everything he had going against him. Rudy's passion and unlimited tal
Jul 06, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Colum McCann's novel on the life of Rudolf Nureyev, one of the most famous and lauded ballet dancers of the twentieth century, brings the biographical and the fictional into an intimate embrace.

We begin in the hellish snow-covered battlefields of the Second World War and over the course of 333 pages watch Rudi as he grows up in the struggle-ridden landscape of Cold War-era Communist Russia. His discovery, learning, and eventual mastery of ballet are a beautiful evolution, as is his transformati
Jul 23, 2012 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After finishing the book, on a number of occasions, I ran into a few of Nureyev’s photos. For example, there is a little dance studio in NJ which hold classes for school aged children (I was there for a child’s B-day party). And in the main room there is a huge poster of Nureyev. It is a photo shot during one of his performances where it seems he is flying upwards into the air. And I remembered a passage in the book where one of the students, who attended dance school with Nureyev, was thinking ...more
Jan 22, 2010 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
he life and times of Rudolf Nureyev as fiction. The last book I reviewed was The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Nureyev was born in Communist Russia in 1938. Sothis book provides a different look a life in a communist country. I love synchronistic. Lucky for Rudic, a former member of the imperial ballet corps in St. Petersburg, lived, in his town, in exile with her husband, an intellectual and a gulag survivor, who chopped off his toe in the camps to prevent gangrene and believes that ...more
Mar 12, 2013 Evelina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kolams Makkens ir sarakstījis vienreizēju un aizraujošu stāstu „Dejotājs”, kurš ir aizrāvis daudzu lasītāju sirdis. Grāmata ir biogrāfisks stāsts par krievu baletdejotāju Rūdolfu Nurijevu un viņa apkārtējiem, tuvajiem cilvēkiem, par mākslinieka dzīvi, ceļu uz panākumiem un traģēdiju. Sākotnēji stāsts risinās Krievijā, taču vēlāk tā darbības vieta mainās.
Stāstā „Dejotājs” galvenais varonis iet savu dzīves ceļu. Tā sākumā Rūdolfs Nurijevs ir mazs zēns, kurš dejo necilā būdā. Bet stāsta laikā viņš
Cynthia ☮ ❤ ❀
I read this a few years ago and really loved it. I am fascinated by the world of "Dance." This was an interesting fictionalized perspective of world renowned dancer. Why am I adding this to my read shelf now...well I have the chance to listen to it through the Sale going on now, and I was interested to see if the story has held up. Since I read/listen to so many books, is my memory of the book better than it actually was...did it hold up to the test of time. Also, some books "read" b ...more
Jun 12, 2009 Kani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot from this book; from a detailed picture of communist russia post-WWII (a difficult era), to life as a gay man at a time when there was a lot of expression of homosexuality waking up in the western world. Very well written and in such an interesting structure: it was really nice to be listening to this book as it was read by several different actors and actresses taking on the roles of the various characters throughout nureyev's life so that we heard about this intriguing and crea ...more
May 15, 2013 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was fantastic. Rudolf Nureyev's life is chronicled in this book from his childhood in Russia until just prior to his death in France in 1993. The book is tragic, romantic, daring, and artfully scripted. Too many adjectives apply here. It is a glimpse into the life of a gifted dancer, choreographer, actor, son, brother, lover, and at times-- a friend as recounted by his friends. Obviously some parts of the story are embellished, altered, and a lot of people's names have been changed to ...more
Feb 20, 2009 Savvy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
DANCER is a raw edged novel about the life of the legendary Russian ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev. It is a challenging, often restless, intricately entangled read.

The book weaves together a series of vignettes that take the reader from the palpable horror of war, poverty, famine and bone chilling cold in rural Russia to the luxurious parlours and decadence of Paris, France in the booming 50's.

Narrated in multiple voices, Nureyev comes to life, first as a starving, neurotic young boy... later thr
Diane Webber-thrush
I was searching for just the right kind of engrossing vacation read and came across this book on the shelf ... and I thought "literary fiction about Rudolf Nureyev? How the he!! did I miss this when it came out?" Then I turned to the copyright page... came out in 2003, that year I had two babies at one time. Ah, that's how I missed it. I'm about two chapters in and it is just delicious. Really indelible images of WW II (yes war in a ballet book. what?). Yummy.
Was a great read for the plane (just
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Holding On to the Air
  • George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker
  • Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal
  • White Swan, Black Swan
  • Nureyev: The Life
  • Once a Dancer: An Autobiography
  • Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet
  • I Was a Dancer
  • Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet
  • Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina
  • The Ballet Companion: A Dancer's Guide to the Technique, Traditions, and Joys of Ballet
  • The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky
  • Breaking Pointe: A Ballet Novel
  • Dancing on My Grave
  • Classical Ballet Technique
  • Dancing on the Inside
  • The Pointe Book: Shoes, Training & Technique
  • 101 Stories of the Great Ballets: The Scene-by-Scene Stories of the Most Popular Ballets, Old and New
Colum McCann is the author of two collections of short stories and four novels, including "This Side of Brightness,""Dancer" and “Zoli,” all of which were international best-sellers. His newest novel “Let the Great World Spin” will come out in 2009. His fiction has been published in 26 languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Paris Review and other places. He has wri ...more
More about Colum McCann...

Share This Book

“He's at ease, his body sculpted to the music, his shoulder searching the other shoulder, his right toe knowing the left knee, the height, the depth, the form, the control, the twist of his wrist, the bend of his elbow, the tilt of his neck, notes digging into arteries, and he is in the air now, forcing the legs up beyond muscular memory, one last press of the thighs, an elongation of form, a loosening of human contour, he goes higher and is skyheld.” 6 likes
“I could tell from Anna's face that she had already told him about dancing in Saint Petersburg and that the memory weighed on her heavily. What monstrous things, our pasts, especially when they have been lovely. She had told a secret and now had the sadness of wondering how much deeper she might dig in order to keep the first secret fed.” 3 likes
More quotes…