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Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow

Sergei Plays Yuri Soloviev In White Crow

In the upcoming biopic “White Crow” Sergei Polunin has been cast as Yuri Soloviev.  The Ralph Fiennes film is based on the defection chapter of legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s life.  At first, I thought Sergei should play Nureyev.  The physique, the brooding good looks… it seemed like a given.  However, the more I learn about Soloviev, the casting makes more and more sense.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Rudolf Nureyev

Nureyev’s defection left Soloviev the company’s star

Yuri Soloviev, born in Leningrad in 1940, was in the same class as Nureyev at the famed Vaganova ballet academy.  Soloviev graduated straight into the Kirov (Mariinsky today) ballet company.  In 1961, Soloviev made his debut in the West, first in Paris, then in London and New York.  It was during the Paris engagement that his colleague, Rudolf Nureyev, defected.  Soloviev carried the season on alone as the new male dance superstar.

sergei plays yuri solovkiev
Gabriela Komleva and Yuri Soloviev in “The Leningrad Symphony”

Of his first performances in New York, Walter Terry of The New York Herald Tribune wrote: “His appearances were nothing short of sensational and audiences were invariably screaming bravos.”  Audiences continued screaming bravos through most of his career.  He was brilliant in great classic roles.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Yuri Soloviev

Soloviev introduced western audiences to the “double assemble”

In the ballet “The Stone Flower” he whirled round the stage in a step that at the time was virtually new to the West.  The double assemblé seemed humanly impossible to its new audience.  A double assemblé is when the dancer runs, leaps from one leg into the air, assembles (hence the name) his legs tightly together, spins around twice, and lands in a tidy fifth position.  For the record, Sergei has been popping these off since he was a kid in class at the Royal Ballet School.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
‘Yuri Soloviev and Alla Osipenko in “The Stone Flower”

Facially, Soloviev was a very good looking man.  His physique was another matter and here is where the comparisons to Sergei meet a fork in the road.  As described by one reviewer, Soloviev had a “large and even difficult body.”  It was a shape one would have not expected for grace.  The same reporter wrote that “he was a poet who looked like a transmogrified truck driver.”

Soloviev had ups too

Rejoining the Sergei path, one thing that made Soloviev a truly great dancer was his awareness of gravity… or the lack thereof.  Much like Sergei, he “moved into the air like a bird and grinned at the top of his jump” to again quote the aforementioned reporter.  He had the most remarkable elevation of any dancer of his generation.  More than the sheer height of these flights, they were combined with a softness, clarity, and ballon.  His airborne abilities led to his nickname of “Cosmic Yuri,” a nod to Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

sergei plays yuri soloviev
Yuri Soloviev

There seemed to be no technical difficulty he was unable to master completely.  And, again, much like Sergei, Soloviev was a sensitive and gifted actor, a master of understatement and taste.  As Albrecht in “Giselle,” he played the role with a beautiful desperate passion, yet was completely believable as the shy and handsome prince in “The Sleeping Beauty.”

So, as much as I originally wished to see Sergei portray Rudolf Nureyev, it seems Ralph Fiennes may have gotten it right to cast him as “Cosmic Yuri.”   We shall see.

– Pam Boehme Simon

Yuri Soloviev, the real-life dancer Sergei will reportedly portray in “White Crow”

Yuri Soloviev, the real-life dancer Sergei will reportedly portray in “White Crow”

The following is a brief biography of the real-life dancer Sergei Polunin will reportedly be portraying in the upcoming film “White Crow,” a bio pic about Rudolf Nureyev.

Yuri Soloviev

The mention of the name of Yuri Soloviev arouses great excitement from those who were fortunate enough to see him on stage.  He was a premier danseur of the Kirov Ballet.  A contemporary of Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Yuri partnered Natalia MakarovaAlla Sizova, among others.

Yuri Vladimirovich Soloviev was born in Leningrad on August 10, 1940. He entered the Vaganova Choreographic School at the age of 9 in his hometown in 1949. His talent was recognised very early on at the school.

He was in the same graduating class at the Vaganova Academy as Rudolf Nureyev. Initially, Soloviev joined the Kirov as a corps member but quickly rose to the rank of soloist. He was Rudolf Nureyev’s roommate during the company’s tour to Paris when that dancer defected to the west during which Soloviev also received rave reviews from the French and British dance critics. In later years Nureyev would often express admiration for Soloviev’s dancing, despite their rivalry.

Soloviev made his debut at the Kirov in the pas de trois from Swan Lake (with Alla Sizova and Natalia Makarova) at a pregraduate performance. Following his performance of the Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty at his graduation in 1958, which caused a sensation and would remain of one his finest achievements, he was immediately accepted into the Kirov Theatre.

He was known as Cosmic Yuri by Western and Soviet audiences for his soaring leaps and Slavic-featured resemblance to Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. He was compared to Vaslav Nijinsky for his technique, particularly his elevation. In 1961 and 1964, he toured the US and Europe with the Kirov Ballet. His most famous roles were the Bluebird and Prince in The Sleeping Beauty and Solor in La Bayadère. He also originated several roles in new ballets including “Icarus” in the ballet of the same name.

Yuri Soloviev’s mastery was genuinely unique. He had perhaps the most remarkable elevation of any dancer of his generation, but more than the sheer height of these flights, they were combined with a softness, clarity, and ballon seemingly defying gravity.  There seemed to be no technical difficulty he was unable to master completely. Soloviev was a sensitive and gifted actor, a master of understatement and taste. 

Fortunately his dancing is well preserved on film. There are many archive films of his work in Russia but to most people he will be familiar in the film of The Sleeping Beauty with Alla Sizova, which provides an excellent record of his dance accomplishments, the delicacy of his manner, and a wonderful souvenir of a great ballet partnership.

***STOP***SPOILERS BELOW***  DO NOT READ THE REST IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING UNTIL THE FILM COMES OUT.

 

 

In 1963 he was awarded the Nijinsky Prize by the Paris Academy of Dance. He was a Gold Medal winner at the Paris International Dance Competition in 1965, and was made a People’s Artist of the USSR in 1973. Despite considerable pressure from the KGB and Kirov management, Soloviev never joined the Communist Party.

He was an intensely private and reserved individual. After Nureyev defected, the pressure on Yuri escalated.  He was interrogated by the Soviet authorities numerous times as they figured that he had information concerning the exact circumstances of the defection.

On January 12, 1977 he was found dead from a shotgun wound to his head, presumably self-inflicted. His death, ruled a suicide, devastated his colleagues at the Kirov. He was survived by his wife, ballerina Tatiana Legat and their daughter, dancer Elena Solovieva.

 




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