Ballet on dancing legend Nureyev gets ovation

The controversial ballet ‘Nureyev’ on the legendary Russian dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev received standing ovation from viewers after it was finally opened on Saturday at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, Tass reports.

But Nureyev’s director Kirill Serebrennikov, who is under house arrest on fraud charges, was not present at the premiere.

The ballet, originally planned to be premiered on July 11, was postponed three days before its opening as it was “not ready to run yet”, according to Bolshoi Theatre. But media reports linked the delay to Serebrennikov’s arrest and Kremlin’s reservations on the treatment of Nureyev’s homosexuality in the play.

It was feared nude scenes had been toned down to please Kremlin. But the theatre management insisted it had not made any changes on ‘Nureyev’ since July.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who watched the performance, found nothing provocative in the play which he described as an event of “global significance”.

Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner called the show a “phenomenon”.

President of Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts Irina Antonova found the second act “just perfect” and was impressed by the way the music element was brought to life.

Film and theatre critic Valery Kichin said the ballet was “uneven, contradictory, but surprising.”

“Bolshoi Theatre needed the performance so that it could leave the gilt cage of classical ballet,” he told TASS.

Culture TV channel host Vladislav Flyarkovsky said there is nothing vulgar about the photographs of partially dressed Nureyev taken by photographer Richard Avedon.

“A great photographer was taking pictures of a great dancer, so that’s what we need to take in,” he said.

He described ‘Nureyev’ as “a classic 21st century play, beautiful, elegant, with a complex set”.

The ballet is set as an auction. It begins with the conductor’s baton lot, costumes from different periods of his life, and personal letters that are read out loud by actor Igor Vernik who plays Nureyev.

The 2.5-hour play shows Nureyev’s life from the ballet classes as a boy to his fatal illness — the dancer was tested HIV positive in the 1980s. He died of AIDS on January 6, 1993, in Paris.

Composer Ilya Demutsky, choreographer Yury Posokhov and director, scriptwriter and scene designer Kirill Serebrennikov had worked together to create ‘Nureyev’.

To express their solidarity with the arrested director, some of the dancers wore T-shirts with Serebrennikov’s name and the slogan ‘Freedom to the Director’ during intermission on Saturday.

Vladimir Urin, Director General of the Bolshoi Theater, urged journalists and critics to treat the play objectively.

‘Nureyev’ will return to the theatre in May.

Serebrennikov, who heads Moscow’s Gogol Centre theatre, is accused of defrauding the state of over $1 million in arts funding.

Serebrennikov has dismissed the charges case against him as “absurd”. His supporters see his arrest as part of a crackdown on critics of President Vladmit Putin ahead of presidential elections next year. Serebrennikov has taken part in anti-government protests and attacked the Russian Orthodox Church for its close ties with the government.

Putin has dismissed reports that Serebrennikov’s arrest was politically motivated.