“The White Crow” Examines Nureyev, the Early Years

Image courtesy of theeconomist.com

There is no doubt that Rudolf Nureyev was a legend in and out of the ballet world. At the peak of his career in the 1960s and 70s, Nureyev was a larger than life character that traversed the worlds of dance, theatre, film and celebrity. No other dancer, until Nureyev, achieved the international stardom and media proliferation that was a constant companion to his unbelievable stagecraft.

And though Nureyev career and life has been studied, dissected, and examined almost ad nauseum since his untimely death in 1993, very few of the many documentaries have looked closely at his childhood and his life before he became an international ballet star.In David Hare’s “The White Crow,” Nureyev’s life, before he become a media star, is carefully examined, from his poverty-stricken existence as a young boy in Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia to his student life at the prestigious Vaganova Choreographic Institute in Leningrad, Russia to his escape to freedom at the Orly Airport in Paris in 1961. These previously unexamined years gives a unique view into the brooding personality of Nureyev. And though there is no doubt that Nureyev loved the spotlight and adoration of ballet fans, he was, at times, introverted, cautious, untrusting, and extremely arrogant. If any artist possessed qualities that could be found of both sides of the coin, Nureyev did.

Image courtesy of variety.com

Oleg Ivanko as Nureyev possesses many of the qualities of a young Nureyev. He has a prodigious ballet technique, deep brooding eyes, the same flaring nostrils—a true sign of genius—and a high opinion of himself. In Ivanko’s Nureyev we also see an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and all things Western.What perhaps stands out most about Ivanko’s Nureyev is his obsession with making himself the Kirov Ballet’s premier danseur. In “The White Crow” we witness Nureyev’s unrelenting drive to make his technique and his artistry unsurpassable by any other dancer at that time. Interestingly, the male ballet star of the Kirov at the time of Nureyev’s defection was Yuri Soloviev (Serge Polunin). Soloviev was a classical dancer more in the vein of what the Kirov respected, unlike Nureyev wild, pantherine presence on stage. And though the authorities were putting all their hopes and press of Soloviev, Nureyev became the star of the European tour.

Much has been written about Nureyev’s relationship with Alexander Pushkin, his ballet teacher and mentor. Ralph Fiennes, who also directed this film, portrays Pushkin as a quiet, elegant man who is slightly cuckolded by his wife Xenia (Chulpan Khamatova), with whom Nureyev later had an intense sexual relationship. Fiennes superbly demonstrates how Pushkin’s measured by firm mentorship of Nureyev helped restrain some of his unruly behavior without watering down his artistry. Fiennes also brilliantly captures in this film the austerity and blandness of every day life in Soviet Russia and how something as magical as a ballet could bring fantasy and joy to the human spirit.; particularly, in a society where artistic freedom was carefully monitored.

Image courtesy of sundaytimes.com

Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of “The White Crow” were the scenes where Nureyev (Oleg Ivanko) is exploring the seedier sides of Paris before his defection. Cases in point were smoky cafes with same-sex couples and back alleys with subversive characters. All these influences feed Nureyev’s curiosity and imagination, which made it only natural for him to defect, especially after his affront to KGB authorities was to end his career at the Kirov Ballet.

Image courtesy of thetimes.com

With “The White Crow” audience will witness all the tragedy and passionate vibrancy that made s young inchoate Nureyev the great artist that the world would come to adore. Out of the seedling of talent, determination and boldness was borne a dance artist that forever changed the image of male ballet dancers. And “The White Crow” details how it all began!!

“The White Crow” opens in select theaters on April 26.

—William S. Gooch

Speak Your Mind

*

Copyright © 2012-2019 | Fashion Reverie Publications, LLC - All Rights Reserved