RUDOLF NUREYEV (1938-1993)
Already a sensation in the USSR, Nureyev took advantage of a European tour by the Mariinsky Ballet of St Petersburg in 1961 to defect.
Within months he had a contract with London’s Royal Ballet and then the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s.
Nureyev hung out with celebrities including Freddy Mercury, Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Gore Vidal and Jackie Kennedy, and partied at Studio 54.
Behind the scenes, he lived a promiscuous lifestyle of bathhouse visits and one-night stands but had two enduring relationships. He had an on-and-off relationship with the Danish dancer Erik Bruhn over the course of 25 years, beginning soon after his defection. However, in 1973 he met a
23-year-old American dance student, Robert Tracey, who became Nureyev’s live-in companion for over 14 years.
Nureyev was diagnosed HIVpositive in 1984 but refused to live as if anything had changed. His declining health began to affect his performances by the late ’80s.
Bruhn died of lung cancer in 1986, aged 57. Some have speculated that Bruhn was also HIV-positive.
Nureyev returned to the USSR in 1992 to conduct the ballet in Kazan. The city now hosts a festival in his honour. On his return to France his health continued to decline and he died in January of
1993, aged just 54.
Tracey survived him until 2007, dedicating the rest of his life to HIV and LGBT advocacy.