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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rudolph Nureyev, Diary update


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?

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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.


  1. Your dream: Take the young fellow's advice and dance,like Nureyev. He's right. Nothing does change you, in the Buddhist sense, that is. Make Shunyata your dance partner and fly.

    Out out, damn clot! Can't they remove it surgically? I suppose they would if they could. I had a friend with a blood clot in his brain. They just drilled a hole and pulled it out. He has a dent in the side of his head now, but he's alive.

  2. Wonderful Nureyev story. It's genius, isn't it, to be like that? So uplifting to see such beauty. Seems strangely linked to the dream.

    With dreams I first ask who are the people? Who won't change? You, or others, or is it a general statement? It's always said that change comes from within, not from external events, though they may prompt it. So hard to change..requires such courage.Only you know the answer to this.
    Clot: reality, yes. The challenges aren't going away are they, though it's not as unceasingly bad as it might have been, I suppose. Thinking of you, as always. xx

  3. Shiva Nataraja, Joan. I need my demon of ignorance danced upon, so I'd call in the big guns.
    Unfortunately in the circumstances it's not like removing varicose veins. This bloody clot is in a nasty spot. Clexane is the only hope of getting it before it does the sort of damage you don't want to know about if it moves. [Well, you DO know about it.] The one your friend had drilled out would have been a last resort, but if you get lucky, they work.
    The kids in the dream I had no sense of knowing. I even googled the statement to see if I had unconsciously plagiarised it from somewhere, but it seems not. It's either too simplistic or too cryptic. It just didn't seem to come from me.

  4. You probably already know this but a blood clot in the brain means there has been a bleed in the brain that has formed a clot. Quite different, and treated differently, to a clot formed within a vein which has the potential for a bit to break off and travel to the heart/lung/brain.

  5. Yeah, I guess there are a lot of different kinds of clots in this world :).

    Yes, Denis, I did think of Shiva Nataraja. We have 4 in our house, one in our bedroom, and I thought of his dance and your dream and beautifully written piece on Nureyev. Interesting thing I discovered last summer. If you look closely, really closely, at a drop of water in the sun you will see Shiva Nataraja, or something that looks so much like him that one can't help but wonder if that's where he came from. After it rains, and the little drops glissen on the trees, the grass, and everything, he is everywhere. It's beautiful.

    Your dream sounds like a hynagogic experience -- those voices we hear as we are dropping off to sleep that seem to come from outside of us and often make no sense at all. Perhaps that the characters in your dream were both so young indicates ideas in your mind that are not yet mature. It would be interesting to use Active Imagination to get back into that conversation and see if it leads somewhere. Given that you can't get up and dance and run around and must sit in a chair with your leg in the air (unintentional poetry here), just sit back and let it happen.

    As for nothing changing you, as Jack Kornfield advises, "just let go, let go, let go", and Adyashanti adds, "There is no end to letting go."

    I've just returned from retreat so am full of this stuff and can't help myself.

  6. Oh, I forgot. Some good news. Tony Windsor's office rang me yesterday to say they would be working towards getting "cutting edge" cancer treatments, including Avastin, made available on Medicare/PBS through their Integregated Cancer Care clinc in Tamworth. This was in response to my emails to Tony Windsor on your situation.

    He said they hadn't thought of including non-mainstream treatments but that this was now on their agenda. We'll see if anything happens. The big Pharmas are pretty powerful, but gee, I wasn't expecting anything but a "Thank you for your interest and suggestions" type of response.

  7. Lots of things i would like to have commented on in all this but have ignored - forgive me if yours was amongst them, but like I said, I suspect I've created a monster! An interesting one but a monster nevertheless. Julie, you may be right about a lot of change coming from within. It may be triggered by an outside event, but how we react to it is what matters.
    The juxtaposition of Nureyev with blood clots makes for some strange intersections, but I like the quirkiness of it all. I want this blog to be the greatest hotpotch of all time, rather like my brain. ['Black pudding's looking very black tonight, Moother,' said Eric Olthwaite, 'Even the white bits are black.']
    You may be right also about the dream, Joan. So sculpt a raindrop and you will have your Dancing Shiva! Your comment brought to me the amazing Sufi saying from the twelfth century, 'Crack the heart of any atom. From its midst you will see a sun shining.'
    Tony Windsor has an excellent staff organisation in his electoral office. i have noticed before how there's always some response to a communication from an elector that goes beyond the polite 'thanks for... we'll look into it.' That's why he's been so successful as an independent. He makes sure his staff do the groundwork. So this is why you got a meaningful response [apart from the fact that he has had a few strong emails even from outside this electorate on this subject!] - though what he can do is limited, he will work the channels.

  8. I'm somewhat jealous of your Nureyev encounter Den. I can sort of imagine the feeling. With the first chunk of my life spent in Gladstone, with about as much culture as your average chlorine bath (excepting the small pockets of artists of course!), my encounters with ballet were somewhat limited. My fortunes changed under the influence of successive girlfriends who all carried a common love for dance in general and ballet in particular. Nights at the ballet (modern dance performances particularly) are now a regular treat, and I do have such great respect for the pure athleticism, strength, skill and stamina the dancers possess. But every now and then, one dancer will rise above the rest, and it’s the effortless grace that sets them apart. Then... the ambiance noticeably changes, the audience is captivated for a time, and you experience the Art. It is in that moment (be it dance or music or performance of whatever kind) that I truly feel uplifted. I try to imagine that experience, amplified. It must have been quite ... well almost indescribable really, but the engineering analogy worked pretty darn well I though.

    My vote is for more ‘left field’ moments please. That’s where the art of living is to be found.

    Scott H.

  9. Thanks for the comments, Scott - very interesting. I have to admit that my interest in girls as a teenager had absolutely nothing to do with ballet but an excess of testosterone, so the benefits for you would undoubtedly have been greater! In some ways I feel that the fact I have come to some of the great art, music etc of the western world at a later stage in life has sharpened my appreciation for them. But I do wish that there was more understanding of Asian approaches to life, aesthetics, etc. in western culture. I fear that Bollywood is going to be as close as we may get!

    You want another 'left field' moment? I am about to put one up.... I hope you enjoy it, especially being a big Gladstone city fan and all!

  10. Yes...marvellous Rudi! How lucky you were to see him in his prime. What has always fascinated me about him is that he came from so remote an area with so little exposure to culture of any sort. Yet somehow the Muse of Dance found him! Or he found Her! A true triumph of great talent over all adversity. I was a little ballet girl once, en pointe, in my tutu! Dreaming of being another Pavlova or Fonteyn! Alas I fell off a train and hurt my back (a train I should not have been on, kissing a boy I should not have been kissing!). I still find watching ballet to be one of life's great joys. (and do you know after about 50 years I still remember the name of that boy!).

  11. By the way, do you former Gladstone-ites remember a man named Lloyd Curtis? Grew great roses and was much involved in all sorts of civic and community affairs? He'd be pretty old by now if still alive...late eighties, maybe even nineties...

  12. AAAAHHH! So many great comments from people, so little time.... But this one I MUST respond to. Lloyd Curtis was the son of my teacher at Primary School so my sisters and I all knew Lloyd from the time he was in his 20s - maybe earlier. You're right - that great dose of heavy Methodism inherited from his father and mother made him into the civic-minded man he was, and he tended the roses in the school garden. His parents were great friends of my mother and father. That didn't stop his father caning me on several occasions, every one deserved, I might add. Uh oh - there's half a dozen more stories from my childhood....


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