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Nureyev was one of the greatest male dancers of the twentieth century, comparable only to Nijinsky. He defected to the West in 1961, on a tour to Paris. From 1962 he was permanent guest artist at the Royal Ballet, where his dancing with Margot Fonteyn is the partnership in all ballet. His first appearance at Covent Garden, on 21 February 1962, was in Giselle.

Rudólf Hamétovich Núreyev was born on 17 March 1938 in Ufa, capital of Bashkortostan in Russia, and first appeared in 1959 with the Kiev Company. Between 1983 and 1989 he was an inspiring and imaginative artistic director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, and here he trained Sylvie Guillem. A naturalized Austrian citizen in later life, he died of AIDS on 6 January 1993.

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