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Rudolf Nureyev was one of the great dancers of the 20th century. He was noted for his dramatic stage presence, passion and sensuality. His talent helped to renew audiences'interest in male dancers and inspired boys to study ballet.
In 1958, Nureyev joined the Kirov Ballet. During the company's first tour to Paris in 1961, he became the first Soviet dancer to defect during a confrontation between KGB agents and the French police at Le Bourget Airport. Almost immediately, Nureyev was in demand as a guest artist. In 1962, he danced with the ballerina Margot Fonteyn, beginning one of the most successful partnerships in the history of ballet.
Nureyev worked with many of his generation's leading choreographers, including Frederick Ashton, Maurice B éjart and George Balanchine . He was also one of the first ballet stars to work with modern dance choreographers such as Martha Graham and Paul Taylor.
In 1983, Nureyev was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet. He re-energized the company by promoting young dancers and introducing new repertoire, including works by Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe.
Although Nureyev made his mark primarily as a dancer, he choreographed numerous works for companies in Europe and North America. In 1972, he staged The Sleeping Beauty for the National Ballet of Canada in a production that raised the company's international profile.
Nureyev, Rudolf. Nureyev: An Autobiography with Pictures. Ed. Alexander Bland. London: Holder & Stoughton, 1962. Solway, Diane. Nureyev. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1998.