Rudolf Nureyev: The Biography  by Julie  Kavanagh
(Fig Tree, 2007)

Rudolf Nureyev: The Biography

by Julie Kavanagh

Born on a train in Stalin’s Russia, Rudolf Nureyev was ballet’s first pop icon. No other dancer of our time has generated the same excitement; both on and off stage. Nureyev’s achievements and conquests became legendary: he rose out of Tatar peasant poverty to become the Kirov’s thrilling maverick star; slept with his beloved mentor’s wife; defected to the West in 1961; sparked Rudimania across the globe; gave his rabid sexuality full reign; established the most rhapsodic partnership in dance history with the middle-aged Margot Fonteyn; reinvented male technique; gatecrashed modern dance; moulded new stars; and staged Russia’s unknown ballet masterpieces in the West. Julie Kavanagh’s uncompromising and magnificent biography, ten years in the making, is a brilliant tribute to a superstar the world can never forget.


  • Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction (Longlisted)
  • Costa Prize (Shortlisted)


Kavanagh's book, apart from its comprehensive and compulsively readable account of Nureyev's life and art, and its exceptional lucridity about the history and technique of dance,its an important wake-up call to the lilly-livered rest of us: this is what performing can be, but only if we give it everything. Nothing less will do. ”
- Guardian
A major accomplishment, the definitive biography of a major artist. It is a big book in every respect - in its reach, in its scrupulous composition, in its detailed analysis, but particularly in its generosity of spirirt.”
- Observer
Kavanagh presents a definitive and moving portrait of one of the 20th century's most hypnotic, ruthless and hedonistic artists. ”
- Publishers Weekly
It gives one not just an enormous admiration for the genius of Nureyev, and the sacrifice he made for his art, but also a renewed respect and love for the art of dance, and its dedicated practitioners. ”
- Spectator