Compare Nureyev to Baryshnikov

Topics: Ballet, Dance, Saint Petersburg Pages: 5 (1635 words) Published: October 17, 2013

“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.” Famous philosopher Rumi made an excellent point especially when concerning the lives of Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. They both danced through war, they danced through heart ache, and they danced through tears. Even though Nureyev, born March 17, 1938, lived through an earlier period of time than Baryshnikov, born January 7, 1948, the Soviet Union remained virtually unchanged. Both dancers had defected thereby leaving the only life they knew in order to gain creativity instead of being controlled like puppets by the KBG. Despite the fact that they both studied under the same ballet company (the Kirov Ballet), endured many hardships by defecting, and strenuously trying to make a name for themselves Baryshnikov and Nureyev shared some differences as well. Throughout this paper I will explicate their similarities and differences in regards to their personal lives, styles of dance, and contributions of the two greatest dancers of the Russian ballet.

As mentioned before, Nureyev and Baryshnikov both struggled immensely in the Soviet Union. They both had their fathers ripped away from them at an early age by coercion to join the military. Additionally, with Baryshnikov’s mother committing suicide and Nureyev suffering from the bullying of his classmates because of being so poverty-stricken--both felt isolated. Also, Nureyev was so poor that all his family could afford to eat were boiled potatoes. It did not help either that Nureyev had to wear his older sister’s feminine coat which gave more ammunition to his classmates to ridicule him. Nevertheless, they found an escape through their love of dance. It was dance that opened a window to escape from the torture that followed them mercilessly living in Russia. Not only did dance provide a mental safe haven but a family too. Because they possessed a talent like no other, at separate time periods, Nureyev and Baryshnikov were personally invited by Alexander Pushkin, the director of the Kirov Ballet, to join the company. Pushkin and his wife became their surrogate parents to the point that they opened their homes and hearts to them. They held such a deep affection for them that when Baryshnikov, just like Nureyev before him had defected, were greatly saddened yet relieved. They felt relieved because they realized that tremendous talents like theirs were being wasted in Russia. Baryshnikov himself stated, “I hated life in the Soviet Union. You had to pretend something you didn't feel” when referencing his life of dance in Russia. Even though Baryshnikov and Nureyev trained in the same company, both dancers possessed notably distinctive styles of dance. For instance, Nureyev started dance at the age of seventeen strictly out of free will antithetical to Baryshnikov who was hand-picked personally by the Soviets to study dance at an early age. Baryshnikov was given intensive training for the reason that the Soviets sponsored dance companies. The dance companies were the pride of the Soviet Union, therefore; only those children with outstanding potential were given the opportunity to learn dance. Consequently, Baryshnikov’s skills became sharper than a knife. He leaped incredibly high, spun rapidly fast, and jumped at extraordinarily high lengths! Even longtime New York Times critic Clive Barnes admiringly stated that Baryshnikov is “the most perfect dancer I have ever seen.” As previously mentioned Nureyev commenced his dance training at the age of seventeen. As a result, he was not as physically adept but contained so much charisma. He was often described as not just playing a character onstage but actually becoming that character. Nureyev presented firm masculinity while Baryshnikov was often perceived as feminine in comparison. Moreover, to mention another...

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