Rudolf Nureyev

January 12, 1993

Rudolf Nureyev's greatest leap was into the arms of a French airport policeman, shouting "Protect me!" in 1961. He was the first of the Soviet performing arts defectors for artistic freedom, spurning the security offered a pampered Kirov Ballet star in Leningrad. Russian performers still come over, but now as economic refugees who cannot keep warm on the new artistic freedom.

Nureyev lifted ballet in the West to new heights, particularly in partnership with the older Margot Fonteyn in London's Royal Ballet. If the U.S. offered him celebrity, he used it to revive public taste for classical ballet while innovating on choreography frozen in Russia.

He thrilled audiences at the Morris Mechanic Theatre with touring companies that could not have drawn a full house without him. He retained star power after the leap was gone, and as director of the Paris Opera Ballet he persevered. Only death last week at 54 stopped Nureyev's dance.

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