cover image The Real Nureyev: An Intimate Memoir of Ballet's Greatest Hero

The Real Nureyev: An Intimate Memoir of Ballet's Greatest Hero

Carolyn Soutar, . . St. Martin's/Dunne, $23.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34097-1

The ghost of Rudolf Nureyev is doggedly pursued by Soutar—who, as stage manager of London's Coliseum in the 1980s, knew and idolized him—but never quite caught in a disjointed, sometimes trite, sometimes charming collection of memories from the author and those who knew the dancer best, like his lover-turned-live-in-friend Robert Tracy and Australian Ballet hands Bill Akers and Roger Myers. To those who didn't bask in his radiance, the ballet star (1938–1993) seems more enraging than engaging, testing people by daring them to give back as good as he gave (he virtually invited Soutar to find him buck naked in his dressing room when he was late getting to the stage on their first night working together). Nureyev's generosity and occasional good humor emerge—his aid to an ailing, indigent Tamara Karsavina; his enjoyment at being ribbed by the stagehands—but also his sometimes violent rages. Soutar digresses often, for instance, into her own career and the life of Princess Margaret, one of the women close to Nureyev. After too many exclamations of how extraordinary he was, ballerina Violette Verdy captures Nureyev's raw power best: "He was primitive, untamed. He did everything instinctively, almost barbarously." (Jan.)