Rudolf Nureyev was born on March 14, according to other sources on March 17, 1938 near Irkutsk on a train of the Trans-Siberian Railway. He received his first ballet training in Ufa, and from 1955 to 1958 at the Leningrad Waganowa Institute with Alexander Pushkin, among others. His first engagement as a soloist with the Kirov Ballet made him almost overnight one of the most famous dancers in the Soviet Union. In 1959 he performed for the first time in the West at the World Youth Festival in Vienna. During a guest performance in Paris in 1961, he decided to escape from the Soviet Union. After first dancing with the International Ballet of the Marquis de Cuevas in 1961/62, his career as one of the most fascinating stars in the world of dance led him to all famous classical ballet companies. But he also worked with modern dance artists, as his performances with the companies of Martha Graham and Paul Taylor show. In addition to the Royal Ballet London, Rudolf Nureyev had a close relationship with the Vienna State Opera Ballet. From 1964 to 1988 he danced 22 roles in a total of 167 performances with the company at the Vienna State Opera, the Volksoper and at international guest performances. With his touring ensemble »Nureyev & Friends« he also created his own programs at irregular intervals.
As a choreographer, Nureyev was able to present himself with his own work as well as with adaptations of the famous story ballets. In 1964, his »Swan Lake« after Petipa and Ivanov celebrated its premiere at the Vienna State Opera, followed by the two other major Tchaikovsky scores »Sleeping Beauty« for the Scala di Milano and »The Nutcracker« for the Royal Swedish Ballet. Compositions by Tchaikovsky were also the basis of the ballets »Manfred« and »The Tempest« created on works by Lord Byron and Shakespeare. For »Washington Square« based on the novel by Henry James, Nureyev chose music by Charles Ives after he had already been inspired by the music of a contemporary composer for »Tancredi« at the Vienna State Opera with Hans Werner Henze’s score of the same name. In addition, Sergei Prokofiev’s »Romeo and Juliet« and »Cinderella«, two classics of 20th century ballet, were also reinterpreted by Nureyev. Today, his Vienna »Swan Lake« is part of the repertoire of many renowned companies, as well as Nureyev’s two other Tchaikovsky classics and his version of Alexander Glazunov’s »Raymonda« and his »Don Quixote«, which he also created for Vienna.
From 1983 to 1989, Nureyev was director of the ballet of the Paris Opera. In 1989 he danced as a guest with the Kirov Ballet. He worked as an actor in the field of musical (»The King and I«, 1989) and film (»Valentino«, 1977). In 1991 he started conducting.
On January 25, 1982, Nureyev became an Austrian citizen. In 1988 the Vienna State Opera appointed him an honorary member. Rudolf Nureyev died of AIDS in Levallois Perret on January 6, 1993. At his request, his capital formed the basis of the Nureyev Foundation. Since 1999 there has been a »Rudolf Nureyev Promenade« in Vienna.