Lord of the Dance

Did I ever tell you about the time I saw Nureyev dance?
I decided to invite a friend I worked with to accompany me to the ballet – as you do. I knew nothing much about ballet. It’s not really my thang but I admire the athleticism and singular dedication that it takes to become a dancer. I was going through a cultural phase – which has never really ended – but at that time was quite recently begun. I looked up Time Out for something vaguely exotic and saw that there was a ballet at the Festival Hall choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev. Concluding that, with such provenance, it must be a safe bet I issued my invitation in a casual manner and was accepted. We both got suitably glammed up. I wore a dynastyesque number with shoulderpads which have since been listed by English Heritage. My companion wore a stunning red polka dot ensemble. This, together with her amazonian frame and stunning blond hair, ensured the heads turned as we passed. We were a vision of upward mobility as we sipped our Pimms on the river terrace before the performance. Things got off to a shaky start as the curtain went up – or tried to go up. It was all a bit Acorn Antiques as the overture ended, the curtains twitched but refused to open. Eventually an embarrassed stage manager came out to explain that the ‘tabs had fouled’ and they were working on the problem. After a bit of manual tugging they finally got the show on the road. Ten minutes in, the audience erupted in applause as Nureyev took to the stage in a surprise appearance. The atmosphere was electric as everyone present realised what a special moment this was. He looked relaxed and was clearly enjoying himself. To my untrained eye he was quite casual in his movements but had great presence and connected with the audience who were entranced by what was happening. There were moments of humour as Nureyev played with the other dancers and applauded them from the side of the stage when they completed impressive solo pieces before launching back into his own performance with gusto. My companion was, by now, thrilled to bits. She confided later that seeing Nureyev dance was one of her life’s ambitions and, as he’d virtually retired by the time we saw him, she’d resigned herself to never realising her dream. It was a magical evening in so many ways and one I’ll never forget. Nureyev died not long after. We had been privileged to see one of his last ever performances. I’ve not heard from my friend for many years – despite both of us vowing to always keep in touch. I wonder what she’s doing now?

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