I saw him dance in Boston in 1966 or ’67. He was dancing Romeo to Margot Fonteyn’s Juliet and he was mesmerizing. The most striking feature of his dancing was his strength and his ability to leap into the air and not come down for what seemed like hours! I saw him again in NYC dancing Petrouchka on the same NYC Ballet program as Afternoon of a Faun along with, I think, at least one other short piece. There were also films made of his dances and I remember seeing Le Corsaire, though I can’t recall whether it was a single ballet in the film or a compilation of solo performances. I’m inclined to think it was the latter.
The last time I saw him dance was around 1981 or ’82. He was with the Paris Opera Ballet. He danced a very haunting piece, Songs of a Wayfarer, with another male dancer. It gave the eerie feeling that Nureyev was being courted by death and this was before anyone knew he had AIDS, something that was not admitted publicly until after his passing, though he was obviously very ill at the end.
Oddly enough, the other time I saw him on stage was when he appeared in The King and I. That was a pretty powerful film vehicle for Yul Brynner – another larger than life Russian, and Nureyev made the part his own in the stage production. That was in 1989.
One of the websites devoted to Nureyev says that he is buried in the Russian cemetery at Sainte-Geneviève-des-bois which is somewhere near Paris. Next time I get to Paris, I think I’ll try to pay a visit.
Another Russian ballet dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov, made balletomanes in the West drool when he defected in 1974 and began to dance here. For me, though, Nureyev was IT. And he always will be.