[Back to Index]
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Rudolph Nureyev, Diary update
[Back to Index]
Saturday, 1 October 2010. I am watching a documentary on SBS about Rudolph Nureyev. What an extraordinary man, driven by passion, fantastic talent and ego, though I’m not sure about the order of those, nor that ego is the right word.
I saw him perform once, at the National Theatre in London, in 1980. Here I was, a boy raised on a dairy farm in Central Queensland, sitting in the gallery of this historic London theatre, watching the greatest ever ballet dancer in history.
It's not something I would have decided to do for myself, but I was in London at the same time as Devahuti, one of the most powerful influences on my life. She was the wife of Damodar Singhal, and together, these brilliant professors of Indian history under whom I taught the cultural history of India at the University of Queensland, they were my mentors, gurus, de facto indulgent stepparents from the early 1970s onwards.
Devahuti arranged the tickets for her and me - Damodar had not yet arrived in London from Delhi. You can’t be in London when Nureyev is performing and not see him, she said. It's unthinkable. You're coming with me, tonight.
Now I have to confess, that, unlike Tracey, what I did not know about ballet filled large volumes, none of which I had read, or even thought about much. Ballet was an alien world, but if Dev said I should go, then there was no doubt about it, we were going.
There we were, looking over the balcony at the performance of Don Quixote, the old wooden floor of the stage not really up to the task, for above the music I could hear the thumping of the dancers’ feet on the floor and the floor creaking as they played out the story.
Then on came Nureyev. This should have been no special performance for him - just one in the season, but every performance, I have no doubt, was unique for him. Somehow everything changed the moment he flew on to the stage. I say ‘flew’ as I can’t think of any better way to describe it. From start to finish, everything he did was entirely fluid and continuous, and he filled the stage with his presence. Though he leapt higher than I had seen anyone launch themselves into the stage space, each step merged with the last and the next into a complete unity. He hardly seemed to make a sound. It was truly mesmerising, even for a ballet bumpkin like me.
I hadn't come to that performance with Rudi coloured glasses, but just to see what would happen.
As I watch this documentary today, I realise for the first time the terrible tragedy his life was, how his family and friends in the USSR had suffered terribly when he defected, and how the world's greatest dancer was written out of the history of his own country; yet how he had overcome so many obstacles due to his absolute certainty that he was the best. In that sense maybe he wasn’t egotistical at all; he was just living an incontrovertible fact. But that's his story.
I saw him perform, live, just metres away. I saw him fly and spin like a gold coin, fixed perfectly to a spot or in large looping circles like a cam fixed precisely to an eccentric shaft.
A ballet critic would use fancy French terms for all this. Mine’s taken from an elegant piece of mechanical engineering. I'll stick with mine. But how lucky was I to have seen him in full flight?
[Back to Index]
Today we will do what's necessary to tackle this clot behind the knee [I have no doubt that's what it is, but it requires ultrasound confirmation, which I just heard should be 11.30 today at the hospital.] This clot's dangerous and has to go. Clexane injections twice a day is the prescription, nearly double the strength of the ones at the beginning of the year, but that simply underlines the importance of the treatment. A very quiet period is ahead.
New chemotherapy and Avastin begin next week. A little girding of loins is required. My right arm feels good after feeling leaden last night, but the leg is very heavy, retaining fluid. No Parkour for me today, Christian! :) I woke this morning in a dream, where a young boy was facing a slightly older girl, and he said to her with great intensity, 'Change! Because nothing changes you!' It seemed rather deep and meaningful until I realised that I didn't really believe it. But it has some truth in it.