It was on this day in 1993 that one of the greatest ballet dancers the world has ever known passed away. Rudolf Nureyev was a giant in the dance world and few performers garnered the level of attention he received.
Born in Siberia, he studied at the famous Kirov Ballet in Moscow and by the 1950s was a national sensation in Russia.
In 1961 during a tour in Paris he escaped from his guards and asked for asylum in the west. It was the first defection by a Soviet artist during the height of the Cold War, and it caused a stir around the world.
The dancer continued to tour the world, appearing in hundreds of productions and gaining international acclaim as the world’s greatest dancer. He also became a famous choreographer.
Nureyev’s career took him around the world, he danced for many years at the Royal Ballet in London. Here he found one of his most famous partners, Dame Margot Fonteyn. Another of his partners was the ballerina Lucette Aldous.
In the 1970s he came to Australia to star in the film version of Don Quixote opposite Aldous who had joined the Australian Ballet. Aldous later became a ballet teacher at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts and still lives in Perth.
In the late 1980s, Nureyev became the director of the Paris Opera Ballet. He was famous for having many lovers and a volatile 25-year relationship with Danish dancer Erik Bruhn. At the same time, he also had an open relationship with American Robert Treacy, whom he met in the 1970s. Bruhn died in 1986, his death was attributed to lung cancer, but friends have issued the speculation that his death was due to HIV.
Nureyev’s final job was to stage a lavish production of The Bayadere, a ballet he had first performed early in his career. He received the highest French cultural distinction during the opening night of the production. A few months later, he died of an AIDS-related illness in 1993, aged just 54. Nureyev spent the last months of his life in a Parisian hospital.
Kate McKinnon was born on this day
Comedian and actress Kate McKinnon was born on this day in 1984.
McKinnon became the first performer on a long-running program saturday night live, who was open about being in a lesbian relationship. McKinnon is the third LGBTIQ+ performer on the show after Terry Sweeney and Danitra Vance.
McKinnon is still a cast member of the popular show alongside his many film appearances in works like Rough Night, Ghostbusters, Office Christmas Party, The spy who dumped me and Bomb.
“On This Gay Day” is a daily feature highlighting queer people and events. This article was originally published on July 6, 2020.