A dance season at the GFT and a new book on Nureyev make for hoofer heaven. Words: John Binnie
olum .\lc(‘ann‘s fictionalised account of the life
of Rtidolph Nureyev. Dam-er (00000). vividly
captures a gay. sensitive loner growing tip in an uncomprehendiiig world. From the age of live. in one of the furthest otitposts of Russia when he performed for injured soldiers returning from the iiastern li'ront. Nureyev was compelled to dance. He became an icon for the ballet world. gay tnen. athletes. AIDS sufferers and more. Nureyev was a mega-star. the Mick Jagger of ballet. l’eted all over the world. It’s a fantastic achievement. considering his working class background with no history of dance in the family. btit he was so determined to succeed.
Nureyev. despite gossip about his personal life. remained extremely private — an enigma. So. instead of a scholarly biography of the Tatar star. Irish novelist ('olum .\lc(‘ann presents an imaginative reconstruction of the star‘s life. He also gets inside the heads of those shadowy figures who influenced and nurtured Nureyev. These include his soldier father. devoted mother. sister and niece. as well as an outrageous gay (‘uban best friend. ballerina extraordinaire Margot ii'onteyn and even an old shoemaker. liloquently written. only occasionally pretentious in its stream of consciousness style. Dancer effortlessly captures an incredible life.
Duneer doesn't shy away from Ntti‘eyev’s full sex life — one of the funniest incidents is Nureyev in a Paris darkroom giving six blowjobs in a row — yet it is in the depiction of his Russian homeland and the city of L'fa where the novel really comes into its own. After defecting to the west in l‘)(il. Nureyev was allowed to visit his mother only once. for a few hours. in the I‘)X()s. By that time. his mother was old. bedridden and unable to talk. The world recognised her son. btit she
in a row
70 THE LIST 1%. .i'i'ii~ l at, 1/,"
One of the funniest is Nureyev and allows the audience a peek in a Paris darkroom giving six blowjobs
Dancer is unputdownable
couldn’t. It's an incredibly moving chapter. as is the exploration of Ntireyev‘s intense friendship with bottleyn.
Thirty-seven-year-old New York resident McCann admits to having never seen ballet before writing his book. Searching for a big canvas after his last novella lz'i'ervthing in the (bunny Must about the Troubles. .‘vlc(‘ann was inspired by a gay friend. whose first memory of TV was seeing Nureyev in black and white glide across the screen in a live broadcast. Interviewing many gay men for research. McCann was fascinated by the characters Nureyev left behind in his shadow. Duneer captures the drive. determination and uniqueness that go into being Nureyev. It is utterly unputdownable.
Also capturing the truth about what it is to be a ballet dancer is Powell and Pressburger's l948 masterpiece The Red Shoes. shown as part of a dance season at the (il'T. Ravishingly shot in colour by Jack Cardiff. it explores the backstage shenanigans and efforts of ptittiiig on a dance. and the complex. impossible balance of being a creative artist while being in love. The backstage bitchery. campery and incredible dedication that goes on between Robert Helpmann and Leonide Massine gives it authenticity
at the queer world of l‘)—l()s ballet. Helpmann would become forever identified with the role of the cliildcatcher in the film of ('hitlv ('hitrv Bang Bang. yet this Australian knight was one of ballet’s great stars and choreographers. Massine was a protege of the great Russian impresario Serjei Diaghilev. and replaced Nijinski in his affections. (‘atch it along with the documentary. Free to Dunee. about the origins of Afro-American dance. which also looks at the legacy of gay choreographers Alvin Ailey and Bill T Jones.
Dancer by Colum McCann (Phoenix House £12.99); The Red Shoes, Tue 4—Wed 5 Feb, GFT; Free to Dance, Wed 12 Feb, GFT.
HELPLINE SWITCHBOARD CRISIS
You feel lonely. confused and don't have anyone to talk to — what can y0u do? Thankfully. there are organisations that can help. one of which is the Strathclyde Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. Started in 1976. it deals with over 8000 calls a year and has a bank of 50 volunteers who man the main switchboard. the Lesbian Line and Homophobic Crime Reperting.
Last year it was thrown into miss at Christmas. one of its busiest times of year. when it was made homeless. With an uncertain period of notice from the landlord. who had deeded to turn the premises into luxury apartments. the organisation had to prepare for sudden upheaval. This also gave little time to find a new home and meant a change in the helpline numbers.
'We were looking for new premises from September but there was nothing we ceiild
Money raising B RLY event afford or that had the right kind of faCilities.' says Andrew Brittle. Switchboard co-ordinator. Thanks to the hard work of the volunteers. it managed to move wrth as little disruption to the phone lines as possible.
The good news is that it still managed to deal with the hundreds of calls over Christmas and New Year. The problems that the Smtchboard deals with range from coming out and sexual health to relationships and families. It is through funding from the four health boards in the west of Scotland and donations. such as the money raised by the recent BURLY event lpicturedi. that keeps it 90mg and able to continue passmg on its cruCial advice. ‘The plan for the future is to tie in more closely with the services that our funders provide. such as the health board and somal work. creating a more integrated service] says Brittle.
It has now moved and is continuing to answer calls seven nights a week from 7—10pm. (Jane Hamilton)
I Slavic/tideard. 07-2 l 847 0-14 7. daily: 7— 70pm; Lesbian LING.
0 M 7 84705.17. ll/ed.
7.30— IOpm: Hemophobic Crime Report/rig, 07417 847 0647. seven nights a week, 7— 70pm.