Picks and Pans Review: Nureyev

updated 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Clive Barnes

When he defected from the Soviet Union in 1961, Rudolf Nureyev brought a fiery new sense of power to ballet in the West. In the process he also became his art form's first pop celebrity, and the frequently stunning 182 photographs in this book clearly show why. Nureyev's emotion and animal athleticism impart a sensuous vitality to even still pictures of his dancing. The book's text, however, is strangely uninspired. Barnes, the veteran New York dance-theater critic, seems strait-jacketed by his own obviously vast admiration of Nureyev. His language is repetitive, flat and at times baffling. Writing of the Soviet Union's pre-defection attempts to limit Nureyev's access to the West, Barnes says: "Steps were taken. It was no accident, for example, that when American Ballet Theatre visited Leningrad, Nureyev found himself on a tour of East Germany with a circus troupe. Looking back, just possibly it was an accident and Nureyev was being too sensitive." Was it or wasn't it? Barnes is also thin on personal details, with no Nureyev quotes about his crossover forays into films (Valentino, Exposed) or TV (The Muppet Show), not to mention the fact that he has never married. Those shortcomings are frustrating. Barnes' evaluations of Nureyev's role in ballet and his marshaling of the public facts of the dancer's life make this a book for aficionados. But it could have been much more fun for ordinary fans. (Helene Obelensky/Dodd, Mead, $25.95)

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