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Rudolf Nureyev is still a scandal to Russians
By Drew Rowsome

The world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet has, with just days notice, cancelled the July 11 world premiere of the ballet Nureyev. This is first time in 100 years that Bolshoi has actually cancelled a new production. The cancellation came under mysterious circumstances and word on the street is that it was over concerns of male nudity and gay themes. Ballet is probably the most homoerotic of the arts, even at the Bolshoi, but it is usually heavily coded.

Nureyev is based on the life and art of the famous Russian dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev who defected to the west in the 1960s. Nureyev, famed for his passion and flawless technique, became a global superstar, performing around the world and notably with the National Ballet Of Canada. Nureyev was also gay and only semi-closeted. The dancer tested positive for HIV in 1984, but for several years simply denied that anything was wrong with his health. Nureyev began a marked decline in the summer of 1991 and entered the final phase of the disease in the spring of 1992.

Bolshoi general director Vladimir Urin has denied allegations that the ballet was canceled over its gay content, insisting that the decision was made for "artistic reasons." However Russia does have a law that bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships," which has been seized upon by authorities to clamp down on depictions of gay people in public life. LGBT activists say the law has had a chilling effect on Russian culture, quite likely as high up as the artistic treasure the Bolshoi Ballet.


 

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