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Battles and Ballet

Rudolf Nureyev

Post-conflict remembrance and social cohesion are politically charged affaires, too focused on nation-building with monumental cosmopolitan agendas and bias narrations in a battle to write a new national history. Therefore, we must acknowledge the subtle power of modest methods of remembrance that still touch the soul and inspire people.

Rudolf Nureyev's Grave

Rudolf Nureyev was buried in the Russian cemetery at Sainte-Geneviève-des-bois, near Paris.

With its lustre slowly fading, ballet dancer, Rudolph Nureyev’s memorial stands unprotected, approachable, and yet powerful, charismatic, and motivating. There is no sign of choreographer or curator, no stage or museum platform, no paid entrance, cafes, or narrated pamphlet.

This is a memorial which rejects commodified or being marketed for socio-economic value. This modest acknowledgement of greatness has presence, yet it will continue to fade as time takes its course. A vulnerability which strengthens its impact and meaning.

The way Nureyev grave is memorialised is powerfully evocative and gives pause for reflection. Despite his fame, cultural significance, and artistic impact Nureyev rests beneath a modest mosaic memorial. A symbolic sculpture of an oriental kilim rug similar to the treasured rug the dancer would take on his tours. Nureyev used the rug to warm up before shows and one could argue reflects his nomadic life also. It was designed and built by friends, set designer, Ezio Frigerio who often designed Nureyev’s choreographies sets, architect Stefano Pace and the mosaicist Francesca Fabbri.

This appears to be a mode of memorialisation that works. It invites those that know of it, to share Nureyev’s journey and to imagine the energy required to what he did, when he did it and how he did it. A tribute to nonconformism, to displacement and of ruthless commitment. An acknowledgement to a dancer which was was born on a Trans-Siberian train near Irkutsk, Siberia, the Soviet Union in 1938. A monument to the hardship of many Soviet citizens who starved to death. To his Mother who despite her impoverished conditions, bought a single ticket to ballet and when no one was looking, sneaked in her whole family. Rudolf the youngest of the family was even-year-old and within a year of that experience he had enrolled in a ballet class, and from then on, he thought of little else.

This is a monument that whispers that the person below became an explosively powerful dancer whose grace and beauty would revolutionise ballet and continues to touch generations of imaginative, bright, and resolute souls.

Like many of those vulnerable souls who shine so brightly, Nureyev died young at the age of 54.

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