They defected for their art and freedom to the West, ballet stars ballet dancers Rudolph Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Alexander Godunov all from their homeland Mother Russia. Back when the Cold War was real they sought freedom.
June 17, 1961, at the Paris Airport was when Rudolph Nureyev defected the Soviet Union. He had been treated harshly because it was assumed he was homosexual by the KGB. Within the week he was employed with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas and was performing The Sleeping Beauty with Nina Vyroubova.
He was finally allowed the freedom to be who he really was. In Denmark he met his lover Erik Bruhn. They had a stormy relationship due to the fact Rudolph liked to play around.
Professionally he director of the Royal Swedish Ballet from 1967 to 1972 and Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1983 until his death in 1993.
He was allowed back in Russia once to visit his mother. The year was 1989.
He contacted HIV sometime in the 1980’s. Although he denied he was sick with AIDS his health was visibly failing.
The French Culture Minister, Jack Lang, presented him with France’s highest cultural award, the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1992. On January 6, 1993 he died in Paris, France at the age of 54.
His death was mourned throughout the world although perhaps the most eloquent tribute was by Mikhail Baryshnikov who said, “He had the charisma and simplicity of a man of the earth and the untouchable arrogance of the gods.”
Natalia Makarova, a prima ballerina with the Kirov Ballet defected in 1970 to London owing to both personal and professional unhappiness. A favorite of the ballets Swan Lake and Giselle she preformed for American Ballet Theater and Royal Ballet. She even returned to Russia during her career and danced Swan Lake again with the Kirov Ballet.
During his trip of the 1970 tour of London, Mischa started planning his escape helped in part by his friend Christina Berlin of the United States. In 1974 Mikhail Baryshnikov escaped his dance troupe and sought political asylum in Toronto. His first appearance after the escape was with the National Ballet of Canada in a televised version of La Sylphide.
After that he ventured to New York. During the rest of the 1970’s he was a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and the New York City Ballet. He later became a dancer and artistic director for the ABT until the 1990’s.
He is still a major name in the world of Ballet. On July 3, 1986, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Alexander Godunov didn’t escape the Soviet Union until 23 August 1979, while on a tour with the Bolshoi Ballet in New York City. In New York Alexander contacted authorities and asked for political asylum. In response the KGB put his wife Lyudmila Vlasova on a plane bound for Russia. The United States tried to intervene but she returned to Russia and the couple were divorced in 1982.
He joined his friend Mischa at the American Ballet Theatre dancing as a principal until 1982 when they had a falling out.
He moved on to a movie career. A much publicized relationship with Jacqueline Bisset lasted until 1988.
He became an American citizen in 1987. Sadly he fell ill with hepatitis and died at the young age of 45.
His memorial at Gates Mortuary in Los Angeles is engraved with the words:
His future remained in the past