Dance, espionage and passion come together in a powerful docudrama that tells the extraordinary story of how Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West in 1961.
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ARCHIVE VOICE-OVER: 'Rudolf Nureyev.
'The critics have exhausted their fondest superlatives.
'The audiences have cheered until their voices have departed.
'Today, in our own time,
'the tradition of the supreme dancer flames again
'in the blazing intensity of this young disciple of movement.'
Are you going to stay?
It is such an incredible story that the man escape
at that time from the KGB, and he jumps!
-TRANSLATION FROM RUSSIAN:
-The story hit like an atom bomb.
It was like a film.
It was incredible.
And this is the last time I will speak of Rudolf Nureyev!
Nureyev was in danger. He betrayed his country.
The KGB had plans to destroy him.
He said to me, "I won't have to hide myself behind an Iron Curtain."
For him, freedom was something new.
-Telling the truth is not always the best thing.
He was a difficult partner.
You know, he was such a star.
He wanted to conquer the world,
and it was his right to conquer the world.
It was a miracle.
while I was walking along the gallery of the rehearsal studio,
I saw a young dancer I hadn't seen before.
His stature was exquisite.
The tension in his body...
..the extension he got in his arabesque...
he was unique.
He wasn't perfect.
But Nureyev was so exciting - he had an enormously expressive
technique of revolving on the very tips of his toes.
You could feel his expression.
TRANSLATION: Of course, we were looking at him with great interest.
Whenever he had classes, we always came to see how he trained.
The same classroom we are in now!
-We all felt very privileged
that we got into this famous school.
It was the dream of every young dancer.
It was very hard to get a place.
And so, when Rudik climbed so quickly to dance as a soloist,
this was just unprecedented.
The person that made that happen
was the woman who chose him as a partner - Natalia Dudinskaya.
-Dudinskaya was a prima ballerina.
Dancers aren't defined like that any more,
but she was a prima ballerina back then,
the grandest of them all.
She was our inspiration, first of all.
The company treated her with great respect.
Natalia Dudinskaya had been a huge star from the 1930s.
Her husband, Konstantin Sergeyev,
was the artistic director of the Kirov.
He was a very important dancer for the company, and a noble one,
someone who represented the ideal Soviet dancer.
But Sergeyev and Nureyev had a very complicated relationship.
Stop, stop, stop, spasibo.
Sergeyev clearly believed in him as a dancer,
he knew that he was capable of carrying the company
and carrying those roles with his wife.
On the other hand, what Nureyev was doing,
his behaviour within the company, was likely very upsetting,
because Nureyev showed no respect.
Rudik stormed in like a whirlwind, ripping everything apart.
He was very impulsive, he would always do something extraordinary,
unusual, and every time it was kind of a shock for everyone.
It was his character.
-He would just snap.
He had a terrible temper.
He was so rude and insulting.
But he was honest, childlike, so somehow you were on his side.
-Rudik had rivals in a professional sense.
Yuri Soloviev had a great natural talent.
He had what we call soft legs.
He could take off and achieve such fantastic height with his jump
that he was compared to Gagarin.
He was called Cosmic Yuri,
because he could keep himself in the air for a longer time than Nureyev.
But the most talented dancers
aren't those who rely on their natural talents,
but those who can overcome any shortcomings they have.
And that's what made Rudolf great.
He was a great dancer, but he had bad attitude.
We had traditions.
It was our responsibility as students
to wash the floor after class.
Rudik would never do it.
He spoke like a prince to his servant.
To Sergeyev, if you can believe it!
He was not just the head of the theatre,
but one of Russia's best dancers of the 20th century.
Yuri Soloviev appeared and said to him,
"Water it immediately or I'll beat you up."
Yuri was quite a big boy.
He did it, but he was so angry,
because he was made to water the floor like the rest of us mortals.
TRANSLATION: Their characters were very different.
Nureyev's temperament meant he pushed and pushed the whole time.
Yuri was less driven to get the good parts.
He had patience. Rudolf was impatient.
-Of course, he was a part of the Kirov theatre company,
but he was always an outsider, he had no friends there.
A part of the collective, but a very individual part.
I became his confidante.
I wasn't a dancer, so there was no jealousy -
I was just happy to share in his success.
He loved being photographed.
When he looked at my photos, he said,
"Look at this real narcissist!"
He loved it that something would remain of these moments.
Going to Paris meant a lot to him.
He really wanted to go on that tour.
I remember how obsessed he was with the idea of Paris.
Nureyev had great expectations, because in 1961
it was the very first time the company toured in the West.
The company was founded in 1730,
and no-one in any way... They never came to the West.
By the time the Kirov was deciding on the final roster for the tour,
Nureyev knew that he was on his final warning,
and a meeting was held to reprimand him for his behaviour.
The title of the meeting was
"The conduct of party member Nureyev."
And I said to Rudik, "This is your last chance.
"I beg you, please don't say anything to make them mad."
But Rudik always created tension with the KGB,
the controlling organisations, as we say.
How would he behave?
But then again, he was unique in our theatre.
Like him or loathe him, there was nobody like him.
On stage, he would be the centre of attention.
He told me that in the meeting, he was only given a verbal reprimand,
so that meant he would be able to go abroad on the tour.
Nothing was written down in his file.
And I said,
"Rudik, don't you realise you've really insulted Yuri Soloviev?"
Yuri was stung by that insult, and it stayed with him.
Rudolf hadn't been chosen.
Everyone knows, if you're going to take anyone, take Rudolf.
We tried to calm him down and control his emotions.
This was a despair for him.
There was another reason.
Nureyev had the same repertoire as Sergeyev,
and Sergeyev wanted to dance again.
Sergeyev and Dudinskaya were hoping that those performances
would be a swansong that would allow them to have a final triumph
in the West as dancers of the Kirov.
But the chance came with a young French lady called Janine Ringuet,
and Janine Ringuet was sent to Leningrad to see the company
and to organise the tour, and to organise also the cast.
And Konstantin Sergeyev told her,
"OK, you've seen all the ballets that should come to Paris."
And in the evening,
she saw that Don Quixote had to be performed.
She said, "Well, there's Don Quixote,
"I would like to see it, maybe it's interesting."
And Sergeyev told her,
"No, it's a very old production,
"you will probably not appreciate it,
don't go, it's really no interest."
She had to see it.
And Janine understood that she'd just found her star.
And she sent a telegram to her boss saying,
"I have found the best dancer of the world."
And her producer answered her,
"Janine, you are a little too young to say that."
But she was right.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
He's running towards me.
"I will be dancing in Paris!" he said.
"2-0, we win!
"Sergeyev gave me Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty."
So this is already...poor Nureyev, he just wanted to dance,
he was refused, and suddenly he became a political problem.
And, politically, it was a very difficult time.
The Kirov would arrive at the top of the Cold War.
Well, '61 was an extraordinary year.
I mean, this is the year of the Cuban Revolution,
this is the period of the building of the Berlin wall.
It's also the year when the Soviet Union put Yuri Gagarin,
the first man up in space.
And this showed that the Soviet Union was scientifically
and technologically ahead of the Americans.
They were winning the Cold War.
With the Kirov, "We will take this culture out to the West
"to show to you that the Soviet Union is not only technologically superior,
"we have a superior culture."
So the Kirov coming as it did in 1961
was an extraordinary step forward for the Soviet Union,
and of course an extraordinary moment in the history of the Cold War.
-This was going to be a crucial tour,
an important mission for the KGB.
A huge company travelling,
performing in major Western capitals, Paris and London,
which meant security and surveillance was paramount.
The operative agent in charge was specially chosen.
He was Vitaly Strizhevsky.
I think he was sent from Moscow.
TRANSLATION: Strizhevsky's main task
was to prevent Nureyev from being involved in any kind of scandal.
And the KGB had to ensure this person stayed within the bounds
of socialist realism, as we used to say.
He was an interesting-looking man,
but I have to say these accompanying guys, as we called them,
these agents, they were a special breed.
You could tell from their walk.
He isn't a dancer, he isn't a director or a coach -
he's the accompanying guy.
This word "accompanying,"
it suited him, the one who follows your behaviour abroad.
He knew that Nureyev was considered rude, ambitious, vain.
He was just a complete anarchist!
I came with them to the airport, and a rumour went round
that somebody was going to be prevented from going.
When Rudik heard this, he went pale.
I said, "Rudik, relax - nobody can take your place."
"That's not true," he said.
In fact, it was a member of the corps de ballet who was sent back.
Nothing to do with Rudolf.
But in the heat of the moment, he was sure it was him,
for all his sins.
Paris was a fairytale, it was a dream.
It was charged with this sense of freedom.
Paris is a moveable feast, as Hemingway said.
It filled me with joy.
I felt so comfortable there.
See, I'm shivering just thinking about it!
It made feel that I could be liked.
I can be loved and achieve success.
I could break out of the way I'd been taught to think about myself.
Once they got there,
who on earth could bear to share a room with Rudik?
It seemed to be that he was always tense and on edge.
I could never have done it -
I never felt any personal connection with Rudolf.
The two great individualists of the company ended up in the same room.
That was a surprise!
One with an enormous jump, the other with an enormous attitude.
THEY CHANT AND LAUGH
They make a big reception in Paris Opera,
you know, to introduce dancers for the press.
This reception was in the Foyer De La Danse,
just behind the stage in Paris Opera.
And it was very strange, because all the Russian was in one side,
and the French was to the right side,
and in the middle was the photographers and press.
In front of us, we could watch the Russians,
and they looked very strange, you know, very old-fashioned.
Only one boy was different from the other ones,
and we just noticed him immediately -
said, "Look, this one is different."
Little by little he moved behind all the other ones,
crossed behind the photograph and the press,
and came to us and started to speak.
I'm Rudolf Nureyev.
I don't speak French, but I speak English very good.
'We start to talk, and he was talking in English already,
'and he asked questions, and we said,'
"Why don't we go to dinner with him if he's interesting?"
And we ask him.
"Oh, yes, I would like very much to go with you and talk to you,
"ask you a lot of questions, but I need permission."
'We went to talk to Sergeyev.'
..to show Rudolf Paris? I think it's a very good idea!
-Paris for Rudolf?
-No, it's not so good idea.
And he looks so embarrassed, and he said,
"No, no, you know, you need...
"It's difficult, and the company, they are tired,
"they need to go to bed very early..."
..and Rudolf is tired, too.
I'm not tired.
"Yes, but, you know, we need another person - he could not go alone."
I said, "Well, give us another dancer, it doesn't matter."
So finally they gave us Soloviev.
How many theatres are in Paris?
There are a lot of theatres.
How many people are in your company?
'Rudolf was talking all the time.'
Who is your tailor?
'The other dancer, he was very shy, not talking very much, you know?'
He was very shy and Rudolf was an extrovert.
Have you been in Russia?
Kirov, the best.
You will see.
What roles do you dance?
'He was very, very curious about everything,'
and he asked questions about ballet, the tradition, the French tradition,
the French school, and we start to talk a lot.
And so then, we said, "Now you have to come back to your hotel
"because you need to sleep." "OK, OK, OK."
So we went to the... He was living in the Place de la Republique,
and we bring the both of them to the hotel.
Soloviev go immediately to the hotel, but not Rudolf.
He stand in front of the car and he look at...
You know it was very strange, he was fixed on us.
And I say, "What happened?"
And so I go outside.
And he said to me,
"You know, it's been such a wonderful evening,
"I stay outside because I'm sure we don't see each other any more."
I say, "Why?" "Oh, because, you know,
"they give me one permission but maybe not two permission."
I said, "Don't be silly."
Of course we will!
No more permission.
And there is a box of chocolate, and we said, "Take the box."
"No, no, no!"
-I take one.
"But if we see each other, I will take two more after,
"then two more, and so on."
'From the start, Nureyev was kept under constant surveillance.'
Thank you for the evening.
'Clearly, this wasn't going to be easy.'
Strizhevsky needed to use everything in his power
to succeed in his mission.
Nureyev was not planned for the first night, for the first evening,
which was certainly a way for Sergeyev to say,
"OK, you are on the tour, but you are not on the first evening."
But he danced at the rehearsal.
And what the Soviets did not know
is that there was someone like Rene Sirvin, who saw Nureyev rehearsing.
-Nureyev danced the dress rehearsal
the day before the opening night and that's where I first saw him.
Immediately, I fell under the spell of this extraordinary young dancer.
And he immediately tells to everybody in Paris,
"There is a star at the Paris Opera."
So when Nureyev's stage debut finally came, I could hardly wait.
The corps de ballet entered in the middle.
They went down the ramp, they turned sideways,
and you could see one coming down, then two, then three, then four,
up to 12.
And people started clapping, thinking that was all,
but then there were 12 more, and then there were more.
There were 32 in total.
It was just extraordinary.
We had never seen anything like it ever.
We saw the shades of Bayadere, and then I really saw -
I'm not exaggerating - a bomb come on stage.
With his white feather, his blue tunic,
this man ran on stage to do his variation, I couldn't believe it.
I thought it was like a kamikaze!
It was new for us, and he kept the attention of everybody.
The little boy when we go outside is a great, great, great artist.
And he dance like...
..I could not explain, you know?
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Nureyev captured the imagination of Paris.
He was so exotic. When he first appeared,
the audience couldn't believe their eyes,
couldn't believe what they were seeing.
-Incroyable! Fantastique! Bravo! Bravo!
-We had a huge success.
And then Sergeyev came over to us and said, "Congratulations.
"But Rudik, don't forget it's a Saturday.
"On Saturdays, you always get an easier, more welcoming audience."
'Rudik was furious.
'I took the criticism. Swallowed this grain of salt, as we say.'
But he stormed off.
Every actor needs reassurance and a good word.
He needed it more than anyone.
After the show, Sergeyev said, "Go talk to him, but not too much,
"and don't tell him that he's fantastic, it's not necessary."
Maybe you are tired?
Well, we went to see Rudolf, I said, "Wonderful," and he was so happy.
He said, "Tonight, I want to talk to you.
"We shall meet in the street nearby the hotel." OK.
And the first night, of course, it was very interesting
because he never saw Clara Saint before.
'She was a wonderful person, very nice, very beautiful, very calm.
'She knew le tout Paris, I mean, she knew everybody in Paris.'
So it was a relationship that attracted
and was agreeable to Rudolf.
-'Clara Saint was introduced to Nureyev that night.
'She was a rich, young socialite.'
Her fiance was one of the sons of the French Culture Minister,
Andre Malraux. And I'd say she fell in love with Nureyev.
This is Clara.
Clara Saint is a bit of a mystery in this story.
She played a very big role in Nureyev's life in Paris
and in his defection.
But she was always a very private person.
To this day, she refuses to be filmed and even to be photographed.
-'It was incredible.
'He was 23 years old.
'He was very curious of everything, you know?
'And when you have someone asking all the time,
' "I want to see this, I want to go there," it's interesting.'
'She was kind of a little Don Juan at that time.'
She was very free and maybe she saw the fact of seducing Rudolf
like a little challenge like that. But he was gorgeous.
It was quite normal, in a way, that she was attracted to him.
-'There was nothing sexual. C'etait beaucoup plus pur que ca.'
'He was much more pure?'
'Yup. He was like a child.
'I remember he wanted to have a wig. So we went and...
'He wanted to have the wig of Marilyn Monroe, blonde.
-'And the man was so surprised also.'
Very quickly, Nureyev formed a small, small circle of friends
between Clara Saint and Pierre Lacotte.
One night, he said, "I would like to see a musical.
"West Side Story, I heard it's fantastic."
And, outside, when we went to the street,
he start to dance the cha-cha-cha.
At that time, it was the beginning of the rebellion
in western society,
the beginning of a sensation that you can do whatever you want.
He said, "I would like to see a cabaret,"
and we thought the Crazy Horse Saloon would be a good thing for him to go,
so we went there.
-'Well, we took a table there and he was...
'He couldn't believe what he saw.
'All the girls, they dance.
'It was perfect. He was so surprised.
'Surprised and seduced.'
We know today Nureyev had relationships
with both men and women over the course of his life.
But, in 1961, Nureyev's sexuality was not something
that he discussed openly.
-My opinion is that, at this moment,
Clara Saint was more in love with Nureyev than her fiance.
I think that she was seduced and he became something wonderful
and then it became not easy and not possible.
And then she just said, "Bon, tant pis."
I love trains. I was born on a train.
-'I remember he wanted to have un train electrique.
'So, I went with him to a shop called Le Nain Bleu.'
'Of course, Clara bought him the electric train.'
"Look behind me, there is somebody who will follow us.
"It's a member of the KGB."
'Were you aware you were being followed?'
'I didn't care, a black car maybe, I don't know.'
All the time, we have those people behind us, always.
And at least one, maybe two.
What could we do?
TRANSLATION: Of course, Strizhevsky gathered information
about Nureyev's friends and their activities together.
All his reports were sent back to his KGB superiors in Moscow.
He was reporting the developing trend of Nureyev's bad behaviour.
-After the performance every evening,
he would watch for Rudik like a hawk.
He just couldn't keep up with Rudik.
It was impossible to get him.
We would sneak through the kitchen door,
through the restaurant, to fool the accompanying man.
"Who cares? I'll risk it. What's the worst thing that can happen?
"They won't take me on the next tour?
"But now I can live according to my heart.
"I want to live in Paris like I'm in Paris,
"not a provincial shit hole."
-He knew he was being followed. Openly followed.
And, one night, when he was in Maxim's,
he was being tailed by a woman from the KGB.
At one point, he said to the maitre d',
"Take this bread roll and water, and take them to this bitch.
"She doesn't deserve anything better."
And the maitre d' did it, of course.
'It must have been hard to swallow!'
-I remember Strizhevsky sitting in the lobby,
in a groggy state.
Like a suffering Hamlet.
"What am I to do?"
And, when Rudik appeared, he got incensed.
It was natural.
Once Strizhevsky realised he was not going to be able to stop Nureyev
from seeing his friends and from going out,
he started to include them in his reports
and to smear them as he went along, in part, to cover himself
in case anything went wrong.
We know from the files that were accessed in the early 1990s
after the perestroika,
that his reports included mention of Clara Saint being a CIA operative.
'And I was paid also(!)'
'So you were a paid CIA agent?'
'Yes, yes, I was.
'Yes, I was Mata Hari!'
-Strizhevsky was feeding Moscow with information he felt
would take the blame off his shoulders
and the shoulders of his bosses, for the ongoing problems with Nureyev.
On the opening night of a ballet called The Stone Flower,
I remember Nureyev invited Clara to join him
in the box reserved for Soviet artists.
Can you imagine the situation?
This young dancer, considered insubordinate,
seeing the performance in the official box with this young lady,
very rich, the emblem of capitalism.
Sergeyev was furious, of course, but Nureyev just couldn't care less.
It was during this performance that Clara learnt
that her fiance and her fiance's brother, the two sons of Malraux,
had died in a car accident.
Of course, it was a terrible shock.
'It must have been terribly difficult.
'Rudolf just became part of this turmoil, this tourbillon,'
to try and fill in this terrible vide.
-'The two brothers died in a car accident in the south of France,
'coming back from Corsica.
'It was my car.
'I didn't want to look at the magazines,
'all the newspapers telling this story.
'For me, it was very important to plus penser.
'To not think any more?'
She was very, very strong, in a way,
but she need to be surrounded with friends
and she don't want to be alone any more,
so she was with us all the time.
PIANO PLAYS BALLET TUTOR GIVES DIRECTIONS
Nureyev was the discovery of the Paris tour for the audience
and, to an extent, the glory he brought to the Kirov in Paris
reflected on everyone.
At that point, they had been so successful, the Kirov was supposed
to move to the arena that had 5,000 seats to fill, the Palais Des Sports.
-The Palais Des Sports was a challenge.
To fill 5,000 seats in that era was a challenge.
They didn't know if it could be done with a ballet.
But, in response to Strizhevsky's reports,
Moscow decided to issue a recall order for Nureyev.
It put Sergeyev in a very difficult position
and Sergeyev knew that Nureyev was meant to open Swan Lake.
The responsibility for the success of the tour
came to lie with the Soviet embassy.
Reading their reports, it is clear the ambassador became involved.
He had tried to save the tour by keeping Nureyev in Paris,
against the recall order from Moscow.
Now, ironically, Sergeyev has to become Nureyev's protector.
MUSIC FADES IN
'It was extraordinary for him.'
The freedom was something new.
And, you know, for instance they asked him don't go with us,
he said, "Why do I have to hide myself behind an Iron Curtain?
"I'm there to profit of life, I will go."
He had his own character, very strong.
'The first opening night of Swan Lake, in the third act,
'he stopped the orchestra during the performance.
He stand up and he said...
-The whole auditorium went quiet.
And, of course, Sergeyev was furious against him -
furious, furious, furious.
'Nothing like this had ever happened before.'
And he came back, and he said to the conductor, "You can go."
And, in myself, I said, "My God, you have to dance much better than ever."
So he started to dance, and he danced...beautifully.
And, the next day, the press wrote that Nureyev,
with a regal gesture, stopped the orchestra
and demonstrated his virtuosity.
'That made him feel invincible.
'And, from this point, his success reached new heights.'
He became intoxicated with himself
and started to think that anything was allowed.
-Of course, all of this tried Strizhevsky's patience.
-You never know what can explode a person from the inside.
STRIZHEVSKY SHOUTS ANGRILY
That was a hard mission for Strizhevsky.
TRANSLATION: Yuri didn't tell me much about what happened
between him and Rudik that night, but I heard the rumours.
The forbidden fruit is too sweet, so to speak.
I don't know exactly what happened but, when you share a room on tour,
it's natural to ask your roommate for a massage.
-I don't want to talk about it.
Yuri never told me what happened about that.
He made hints and Alla Osipenko told me, "Yes, there was some incident."
Yes, there was some incident.
That's why Yuri pushed him out and they parted company.
He needed to do anything at this point
to turn the mission to his advantage.
It was his right to use the influence
of other members of the company against Nureyev.
While I was a KGB officer,
I was able to see the agents' operative documents.
And it's clear, from this moment,
Yuri Soloviev became Strizhevsky's main informer
and what he had to say made all the difference.
You know, they accused me to push Rudolf to leave the company.
That I know they did it and it was so stupid
because if really we wanted to do it,
don't you think it would easier to go to the police?
Even if the KGB was behind us and say to Rudolf,
"If you want to leave, you go there and sign, 'I want to stay in.' "
It was very strange... Very easy.
Just before the company was going to move to London, a recall order,
a new recall order came in, ordering Nureyev back to Moscow
and this time it could not be avoided.
This time, the final ultimatum came from the highest authority,
the Central Committee.
Could there be any further delay?
No. The order said, "Put him on a plane to Moscow immediately,
"when the rest of the group is travelling to London."
CLARA: 'He was not so free.
'I remember we had the conversation about that and I said,
' "Well, don't be sad, because we are going to come to see you in London."
'I remember I saw a rat, a big rat like this - "Ah, a rat!"
'And he said to me, "There are many rats in Paris."
LAUGHING: 'And I said, "Yes."
'I don't know why I remember that and not things more interesting...'
'It's bizarre, no?'
'At the airport, I go to say hello to Rudolf.'
THEY SPEAK IN FRENCH
'They were all there, and immediately Sergeyev was very...'
very quiet, completely different. And we start to talk,
very nicely with Dudinskaya and Sergeyev,
and we talk completely normally for the first time.
'He said to me, "Why don't we have a coffee together?" #
And Sergeyev go to talk to Rudolf, and I stay there with Dudinskaya,
drinking my coffee.
And I saw Rudolf going white, completely white.
And he said, "Pierre, you don't know what happened,
"I'm punished. They want me to come back to Moscow.
"Do something - I don't want to come back.
"I will never dance any more.
"Do something for me or I kill myself!"
In my place, he saw a paper knife in silver that I bought in Mexico.
And he said, "Oh, I like that." I said,
"Take it, it's yours, for you."
But I could not do anything. They took him.
C'est bien, c'est bien, my friend.
And I realise that he was lost.
OK, goodbye, goodbye, it was nice to meet you.
He realised that the danger is there and he was shaking.
He was very, very, very, er...
afraid about the situation.
I saw the last moments when Rudolf was sitting on a bench
with Alla Osipenko.
While everyone else was boarding, I saw that Rudik
was in tears...
And Alla was trying to console him in her arms.
And I still have that picture in my mind.
And in my heart.
It's an awful thing.
I was still there and then suddenly Vitaly Strizhevsky pushed me
to the departure gate.
I turned to see Rudik...
He showed me this.
He makes that sign.
It means prison.
And that's it.
The curtain closes.
And at that point, no-one could do anything.
I look at the watch and he said, "My God, now look at the time."
And suddenly I saw Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and he came here,
and I said, "Jean-Pierre, do something.
"that is the telephone of Clara, call her and say that it's urgent,
"she has to come because Rudolf have a big problem
"and we need somebody.
"Maybe in half an hour it is too late - we can not do anything."
'I was sleeping.
'Because I spent a lot of the night walking.'
' "Are you Clara Saint?" I said, "Yes."
'And he said,
' "I am at the Aeroport Le Bourget and I just spoke with Nureyev.
' "Please come, he wants to see you."
'And I said, "He's going on the plane to London."
' "No, no, the plane already left." '
During that time, the KGB said, "Listen, Mr Lacotte,
"don't stay here, look, he look at you,
"he think that you could do something,
"and, of course, you could not do anything."
And suddenly, behind me, Clara was there
and she said, "What can I do?"
I said, "Clara, you have to do something immediately."
CLARA: 'And I went to him and the bodyguard went to me
'and said, "What do you want?"
'And I said, "I want to speak to my friend."
'OK, well, they... They were not very afraid of me, I think.
'He's too big.
'And he said to me, "Please do something."
'And I said, "Are you sure you want to stay here?"
'And he said, "Yes, absolutely, absolutely sure."
'That I remember very well.
'I saw this arrow saying, "Police - First Floor,"
'so I went there and I said, "Listen, there is someone downstairs
' "that is with two bodyguards
' "and they want to send him by force to Moscow.
' "He is a dancer."
'And they said, "Are you sure he's a dancer?"
'And I said, "Yes, I'm sure he's a dancer."
'And they say, "We cannot go to him,
' "we're not allowed to take him, he has to come to us."
'And I said, "OK." '
You just have to run and say, "I want to be free."
I said to Clara, "Of course,
"but how could...? Look, the police is around him."
What could we do?
'Instead, I went again.
'The men, they said, "Well, she's crazy." '
'And I said to him,
' "You see these two men, French police, you have to go to them."
'It's like in a ballet, you know, he jumped!
'The French policemen took him
'and the two bodyguards, you know, they run and there was a fight
'between one of the French policemen and one of the bodyguards.
'I remember the French policeman said to the Russian,
' "Ah, don't touch me!"
'Screaming, "Vous etes en France ici." '
My uncle, Mr Gregory Alexinski,
He worked in Le Bourget as a commissar.
Was responsible for the security of Le Bourget.
He spoke with Rudolf in Russian.
I think when you met him, you were impressed,
because he had this kind of calm of the hero, you know,
the people who can deal with danger.
'I remember this office.'
'Rudik asked, I think, for a cognac he was really like this...
'And they said to me...
' "The first thing he has to have - papers."
'Et puis, like 20 minutes after I arrive...
'The attache culturel, the ambassade de Russie.
' "Ah, but, Rudik, you cannot do that to us, oh, my God.
' "My God, it is crazy, you know, you are going to go to Russia
' "you are going to be such a star,
' "we don't want to do nothing to you, we respect you so much..." '
My uncle said that his office was a small office
and that it was probably very chaotic
with the Russian and the French.
In this office, there was two doors -
so he ask Rudolf to decide
if he wanted to take the plane...
..with the Russian agents of the KGB
or wanted to stay in Paris, France.
He had to choose.
This is a beautiful idea, it's very simple and it's very abstract.
You take the left door or the right door
and it's not the same end, you know.
They said to me, "Do you have some place to put him?
"Because they're going to follow him."
And I said, "Yes, I have a friend, no problem."
"And he cannot go outside."
I said, "OK." "Don't go and see him because you're going to be followed."
The real story, it's such an incredible story that the man
escaped at the time from the KGB - he is the most famous world dancer,
he's very beautiful, he's very young, he's a dandy
and he's flamboyant, you know, flamboyant, and he jumps!
He jumped, he escaped, he was the winner.
He had a very good instinct of people,
and he had this ability to meet the right people at the right time.
It's like a film.
It was like I was not in the story...
on the way to breakfast, in the lobby...
..there was a newspaper
with a photograph of Rudolf dressed in white making a stage leap,
and the headline,
"Dance To Freedom".
It was on the whole page.
The jump to the Free World.
We were so shocked, we went into our hotel room and quietly whispered.
Telling each other it could not have happened.
It must be a mistake.
Our Rudik couldn't have done it. He couldn't have done it.
It was a betrayal of our motherland. This was my feeling.
The story hit like an atom bomb, and the blast wave grew into legend.
After Rudik defected, in London, I was locked in my room.
I was let out only to go to rehearsals and the shows.
Can you believe that? It was horrible, how I was treated.
I was a ballet dancer with a reputation,
known all over the world.
The West could claim a victory in the Cold War.
That was the simple message of the Nureyev defection,
"We are freedom, we are an open society,
"we permit artistic expression,
"Nureyev has escaped to achieve his artistic goals
"and he can only do that," so the West claimed,
"within the... within the West."
So it was a huge... a huge propaganda coup.
The Soviet Union had a very strong interest in not publicising this,
because, after all, from their point of view,
it was a propaganda disaster.
Not least for Shelepin, head of the KGB.
The letter Shelepin wrote after Nureyev's defection
is the explanation from the KGB head of what had happened.
It reveals he never knew what was going on.
The whole thing had caught him off-guard.
This story of Le Bourget
was so much a tragedy for the KGB
and proof that the KGB was absolutely not competent at all.
So the first thing that the KGB has to do is...
is to destroy this, er...
And Nureyev knows that.
He must have been terribly moved and in a terrible turmoil.
Waking every morning, wondering where he is.
I mean, every awakening must have been difficult for a long time.
He found himself trapped in an apartment
that he couldn't leave for fear that the KGB would find him.
The irony is, when he defected,
that wild animal whom the world was seeing or imagining to be free,
all of a sudden was finding himself in a cage again.
-He was living there, it was a big apartment, very nice,
on the Jardin du Luxembourg.
And he had nothing, so I went to buy toothbrush and shirts
and jeans and all these things. He had nothing, nothing, nothing.
Nureyev was in danger even the day after.
The KGB were in front of all of the apartments -
of Clara Saint, of Pierre Lacotte.
Two KGB was in front of my place.
'Somebody was ringing, they called me.'
'It was a newspaper.'
"Listen, I would like to know where is Rudolf Nureyev."
I said, "I don't know."
"Why are you lie? You have to tell us,
"we need to for our information, for the newspaper." I said...
And they said, "I will give you some money."
I say, "I don't want anything." And they were ready to sign a cheque
and I said, "I don't want it, I don't know where he is
"and even if I know where he is, I never tell you."
And I hang up.
What I know is that Nureyev was very, very anxious.
KNOCK ON DOOR
He was scared.
And he was... he was right to be afraid,
because the KGB had plans to, er...to destroy him.
There is a version that Nikita Khrushchev gave an order
to break Nureyev's legs, to end his dancing career.
I don't deny that, in private,
he was so furious he could drop a phrase like that, as we say.
But that he ordered it, that he would action it?
It's unthinkable in this context.
Nureyev had no scientist secret, that's true.
He just had one thing - he offended the government
and he betrayed his country.
The London premiere was in three days' time.
Sergeyev was in a panic, trying to think what to do.
For him, it was a life-or-death question.
He would carry the can unless he could make the show a triumph.
He approached Soloviev to take over Sleeping Beauty and Bayadere.
I did Swan Lake.
We had no time to introduce young Yuri Soloviev into the show
and we were rehearsing day and night.
He wasn't tall enough for me,
so I was on full fingers.
Rudik unwittingly gave him his break.
And he moved into the role of soloist.
I felt it would have been better if it happened gradually.
Instead of maturing, it came in a rush of panic.
'You know, everything was difficult.'
KNOCK ON DOOR
'I said to Clara,'
"Rudolf, now, he have to work."
You know, he was going crazy.
Where have you been?
Don't like this shirt, it's too big.
-'He didn't like the shirt I bought.
'Can you believe it?'
Can you do something?
' "I don't like that shirt." '
SHE IMITATES HIS GRUMBLING
' "Ah, but these jeans...
' "And you know, the apartment I'm staying in - it is full of marble."
'I said, "Yes, it's a very beautiful place."
' "Yes, but it's cold, it's very bad for me, it's cold."
' "Merci beaucoup." J'ai dit, "Thank you very much." '
He have to work and we talk about...
I say, "What about in Paris Opera?"
It's impossible politically, it was a national theatre,
they could not take somebody who escaped from Russia,
otherwise never will the company go to Russia any more.
The only thing was the ballet company of Marquis De Cuevas.
Clara called Raymundo de Larrain.
Raymundo de Larrain was the director of the ballet
of the Marquis de Cuevas.
CLARA: 'Raymundo, I call him - he said,
' "No! Tell him I'll hire him! We are going to produce Sleeping Beauty." '
And Nureyev had seen Sleeping Beauty,
and he met Raymundo de Larrain during his tour with the Kirov,
and he told him the production was awful
and the costumes were so kitsch.
And two weeks after his defection, what did he dance?
Sleeping Beauty with the Marquis De Cuevas company.
There was a press conference in the morning,
at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees.
Of course, I was there,
but there were also hundreds of journalists and photographers.
NUREYEV: I will never return my country,
but I can never be happy in yours.
The whole world was watching. So the KGB couldn't do anything.
Nothing could have been worse for Russia
than if they had tried to get to him at that point.
He had the event, the main event in ballet world.
Raymundo had it in his hands
from the moment Rudolf accepted to come.
Well, he came like un grand fauve,
like a wild animal.
And we were fascinated.
I was especially fascinated by the way he worked.
He would lock himself up, somehow,
when he wanted to be alone, with the pianist.
Into to the foyer
of the Theatre des Champs Elysees, and he would do his own class.
Rudolf told me that he was redoing carefully,
precisely, the class of Pushkin, not to forget it, not to lose his shape.
One thing he was very afraid of by passing to the West
is to lose his shape,
because he wouldn't have the same training any more.
So he used to do that class very slow, very... It was fascinating.
I had never seen somebody work so thoroughly,
with so much precision and slowly correct a movement
until it was perfect. This was absolutely incredible.
On the night of Nureyev's debut as Bluebird in Sleeping Beauty,
he asked that nobody disturb him in his dressing room.
But a journalist managed to get in and gave him three letters.
One from his father, one from his mother,
and one from his coach, Pushkin.
All of them told him he could not betray his homeland.
They all told him to come back and that there would be no punishment.
I think it was the Communists, of course,
want to organise a big evening against Rudolf...
..to make him afraid and to shock everybody, to say,
"Look, that boy, he did something wrong,
"he's leaving his own country."
But only the Communists could think that way.
That evening, everything was done to demoralize him.
He understood this straight away, and he was furious.
Then, as he approached the stage,
he heard abuse coming from the auditorium.
It was not spontaneous,
it was really organised, you could feel that.
When he came from the wings, he came very close to my left
and I remember his eyes -
he was in total panic.
They were yelling, "Traitor - go back to your country."
They were throwing coins, broken glass on stage -
They did everything possible to unnerve him.
But he kept going.
That was, for me, the proof of his, the strong-ness of his character.
In the middle of all that situation, he proved his own personality,
That day, he really became free.
He had broken off with everything from the past.
He wanted to learn, he wanted to know, he wanted to do,
he wanted more, he didn't want to be blocked,
he didn't accept the fact to be limited.
And he's so right, I mean, he wanted to conquer the world,
and it was his right to conquer the world.
His perfect right. How dare the people stop him from that?
When we got back,
they declared Nureyev to be an enemy of the nation,
and that he committed treason.
That's what they always used to say
when people did something extraordinary.
I remember it like yesterday, the day they returned to Russia.
I had to find out what happened, from Yuri Soloviev.
Everyone was asking, "How could it have happened?
"What did happen?"
Yuri was taken repeatedly to the grey house - the KGB headquarters.
Of course he was influenced.
They put pressure on him.
It took a heavy toll.
That pressure didn't stop. It continued relentlessly.
We used to talk, sometimes, in the locker room.
"Sergei," he said...
"..what a success we've become.
"But what's the point of it all?"
He was sinking into some darkness and this inclination...
This would not have taken place if Rudik hadn't defected.
It was a complex time, I think, you know.
I don't understand what it is about this guy.
That was a kind of thing
that you never feel that you know everything about it.
And I think with Rudolf, we don't know everything.
My feeling is that it was decided in advance,
that Rudolf would leave to stay in France.
Uncle Greg - I remember that what he told me
when I ask him one day, "What's happened exactly?"
He said, "In the morning,
"there was a call telling me that something could happen.
"I had to be very careful and to help -
"somebody was probably going to escape the Russian guards
"to come inside the French frontier."
The final order to secure Nureyev's immediate return to Moscow
at the airport was a provocation.
The final push to make this man take that step.
I am completely convinced that the Central Committee
really knew what they were doing.
They were provoking Nureyev in order to make
a strike against the KGB chief, Alexander Shelepin.
The Central Committee really didn't like Shelepin -
he was a rival to their power,
and they would do anything to get rid of him.
He was kept in the dark and he missed it.
His security services failed to prevent the defection of Nureyev
and, thanks to this event, Shelepin was taken down.
-Why do you think Shelepin was deposed?
Well, I'm sure this was connected, this was surely...
It must have been connected to... to the defection.
There was also an extraordinary degree of factionalism,
pure power struggles, control of the political agenda.
This is what happens when you open up to the West, this is what happens
when you try to engage the West and allow people to travel to the West.
You're going to end up with these kinds of disasters.
How somebody has the ability in their life to escape,
it's difficult to say.
But I think some people have luck in their blood, you know?
-I don't remember very well,
but after all that, he became a star, of course.
I went with him to this shooting...
And then they said to me - "You know, you can stay now"
"but then you have to leave
"because I want to photograph him naked."
And I said, "OK, yes, I'm not going to stay."
And he said, "Well, come back in one hour if you want."
INTERVIEWER: What do you think you meant to him?
-I don't know.
-Did he love you?
No, I don't think so.
No, he thought...
..that I was...
an interesting person.
I was free - I didn't work at that time.
I was completely free.
Everything was easy with me, you see?
But, you know, he was such a star.
I was, I was happy for him.
And this is the last time I will speak of...
Dance, espionage and passion come together in this powerful and exciting docudrama that tells the extraordinary story of how Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West in 1961 and became a living legend. Spectacular dance performance is provided by Bolshoi Ballet star Artem Ovcharenko in the role of Nureyev.
The film shows a thrilling recreation of the events in the four months that led to Nureyev's defection at Paris's Le Bourget airport on June 16th 1961, helping to change the course of the Cold War. It shows how those events transformed not only Nureyev's personal fame and fortune, but those of everyone else around him.
This film offers an important opportunity to hear this momentous story told by those who participated in it. First-hand accounts are provided by those who were on the fateful tour with Nureyev, including former prima ballerina Alla Osipenko and rival male soloist Sergei Vikulov. Two principal figures instrumental in Nureyev's defection - his intimate friend Clara Saint and the dancer and choreographer Pierre Lacotte - also provide their version of these world-changing events. Dance to Freedom is a close-focus, multi-layered account of one of the most thrilling intrigues of the 20th century, uniquely told in a mix of revelatory testimony, tense dramatization and spectacular dance performance of Nureyev's roles, offering an original interpretation of why the defection took place. It is a timely reminder of what happens when art and politics collide and how truth can often be more astonishing than fiction.