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Robert Abrams
Book Reviews

Nureyev - a book review

by Robert Abrams
February 6, 2004

Nureyev - a book review

Robert Abrams
February 6, 2004

Nureyev, a photo essay book by Valeria Crippa and Ralph Fassey from Rizzoli International Publications, is, like Gaul, divided into three parts. The first part is an extended essay by Ms. Crippa in which some of Mr. Fassey's photographs are interspersed. The second section is a series of Mr. Fassey's photos laid out on each two page spread in thematic groups with no captions. The third section repeats the photo layouts in miniature with captions. The book, organized in this way, lets the readers experience Nureyev in whichever way suits them best: as a literary memoir, as a pure visual experience, or as a commented visual experience.

Photo by Ralph Fassey

If you are into ballet and Nureyev, this book has a rich collection of photographs you will appreciate. There are 68 performance photos with Nureyev on the ground, 11 performance photos with Nureyev in the air, 18 curtain call photos, 46 backstage photos, 11 dressing room photos, and 22 photos of Nureyev outside the theatre. The photos give you a sense of his performance in both classical ballet and more modern works. The photos also give you a sense of Nureyev as a person.

The performance photos are somewhat grainy when printed at the full two-page 11 by 17 inch size, but this is to be expected from photos shot in action without supplemental lighting. Even if they are grainy sometimes, the photos clearly show Nureyev's emotion. The photos frame Nureyev's artistry with an artistic eye.

It is difficult to pick a favorite photo from this collection, but if I were forced to, I would go with the photo on page 134 because it is an interesting composition as a photograph, it shows Nureyev's strength as a dancer, and gives the viewer a glimpse into the essential idea underlying the choreography (in this case a modern ballet called Moment performed by the Scottish Ballet in February 1977 at the Palais des Sports, Paris). It also happens to be the photo used on the cover of the US edition of the book, shown above.

Reading Ms. Crippa's text is a little like bathing in the ocean: you are washed back and forth with an abundance of frothy detail about Nureyev's life. There is so much about his work, his loves, and his historical context that the reader risks getting lost in it all, which is perhaps exactly the point. The text is not intended as a dispassionate, organized analysis of Nureyev, but rather a personal immersion in his life. Ms. Crippa is in a good position to enable this immersion since she served as Nureyev's personal tour manager for many years, in addition to her work as a culture and lifestyle journalist.

All in all, Nureyev is a book that any balletomane should seriously consider adding to his or her collection.

Text by Valeria Crippa
Photographs by Ralph Fassey
Hardcover 9 3/4 x 11 3/4 / 192 pages / 200 color and b&w illustrations
$45 US / $70 Canada
Rizzoli International Publications
ISBN: 0-8478-2544-2
December 2003

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