I Am a Dancer (1972) Movie Script

Whatever else, the face is familiar
from a million photographs.
All over the world,
even if you've never seen him dance,
you know the name:
Rudolf Nureyev.
la seconde.
la seconde.
And fifth.
Then we pli.
And we display,
and open, bring down.
It's quite difficult to dance, you know.
It needs commitment and passion.
That's what helps to make Nureyev
so special a dancer.
He's totally committed
with a fantastic passion for his work.
He once said:
"Every time you dance,
what you do
must be sprayed with your blood."
That's a metaphorical way of speaking,
but it says a lot about him.
He was talking about
when you dance on stage.
That, before you ever get on stage
as a dancer,
there is this routine of training.
Day after day.
Week in, week out.
Year in, year out. It never stops.
It never stops, this need
to keep practicing all the time.
Again, he was once quoted as saying:
"After three days off,
my back,
my legs,
even my spine begin to deteriorate."
"After a week,
my legs would shake at the barre."
"I'd faint."
la seconde.
And pass.
Rond de jambe.
Back, attitude.
Does it look easy?
That's deceptive.
The muscles must be made to work
exactly the way you want them to work.
The repetition, the little movements,
gradually build up control over your body
and make it possible to do the big,
difficult things on stage.
Just like an athlete,
a dancer gradually stretches himself
to the limit of his capacity.
And then tries to go further.
Balance, control, strength.
That's what it's all about.
That's what the training is for.
Without them, the dancer can do nothing.
Two and three.
And one, two, three.
And side.
And pas de bourre, and three.
One, pli.
And fifth.
One, and two.
And one, pli. Pas de bourre.
One, and back, and bam.
Excellent for the left side.
For the right side, go back.
Follow the right side.
Pli to the back...
la seconde.
To the back, good.
Right, and back.
After class, rehearsal.
In this instance, the famous old ballet,
La Sylphide, dating from the 1830s.
It's been handed down ever since,
from one generation of dancers to another.
Even the traditional mime gestures,
like this.
himself the producer of many ballets
and a perfectionist in whatever he does,
knows the importance
of getting every detail right.
Nowadays, even in his busy life,
he makes time to create new dances.
And also to pass on to others
some of the traditions he has learned.
More cart.
More cart.
Wrong foot. Wrong footwork!
One, two, three.
It's not good, it's not right.
Can we go, dum-dum?
Front leg open.
One, two... One, two... One, two, three. One...
Can you do it?
It's you who lead...
One, two...
One, two, three. One...
One, two...
And one, two, three.
Can we repeat from ferme?
With the arm... the leg.
- The same place. Lead in.
- Yes.
Lead in. And...
Ready, and one, two, three.
One, two, three.
Settle down.
One and you fall.
Dum! Up.
And... down!
One and, by two,
everybody has to have a pose.
In La Sylphide, the vision
of a sylph, a beautiful spirit of the air
appears on his wedding day
to a young Scottish farmer.
He falls in love with her immediately,
leaves his bride and his family
and follows it to the woods
where other spirits like her are dancing.
But their enchanted scene together
is destined to be brief
and, at the end of the ballet,
he will be left alone and disillusioned.
Nureyev and Carla Fracci are dancing
the love scene in the woods.
This is where it all begins and ends.
In a theatre dressing room.
They're much alike all over the world.
Somewhere to hang your clothes,
somewhere to sit.
A mirror to make up for the stage.
No trimmings.
No glamour.
A dancer like Nureyev is accustomed
to finding himself
in strange dressing rooms.
Perhaps it stems from
the fact his family were Tartars:
a race famous over the centuries
as warriors and nomads.
He was even born travelling, in a train.
And sometimes it seems
he has never stopped travelling.
First to Leningrad,
where he learnt to dance
and, since then, all over the world.
Wherever there is
an audience waiting to see him perform.
He has to dance all the time.
He likes to dance all the time.
He says: "I dance best when I'm tired."
"Then, if I'm on my second wind,
I know it will work."
"My muscles will just go my way."
The clothes a dancer wears to rehearse in
are not meant to be glamorous.
What matters is
they keep your muscles warm.
Nureyev is very much engrossed in
the Classical Ballet,
ballets like La Sylphide
or The Sleeping Beauty.
After all, he was trained at the Kirov,
the world's greatest classical school.
These classical ballets are valuable
for their own sake
and as a point of departure for dancers
and choreographers to move forward.
And, as a dancer, Nureyev wants
to be seen in modern works as well.
Glen Tetley, the American choreographer,
created the ballet Field Figures,
a very original modern work
to music by the avant-garde composer, Stockhausen.
And he personally taught Nureyev
the leading role in it.
Tetley explains he's fascinated
by the carefully judged distances
we all unconsciously permit
between ourselves and other people
and the instinctive guarding of territory
about us
that is part of our animal heritage.
In Field Figures,
he used that idea as the starting point
for movement that explores
the transitions between movements
rather than the fixed, brilliant
positions usual in Classical Ballet.
He'd often say in rehearsal:
"Do you know those steps in between
your arabesque, jet, pirouette?"
"Well, try to make them look as though
they were not between."
Another unusual feature
of Field Figures is that
Tetley wanted the dancers
not to see each other's movements,
but rather to hear them and react or not.
This makes an unusual
and fascinating relationship.
Whereas, in Classical Ballet,
dancers are seldom allowed
total physical involvement,
Field Figures starts
like this rehearsal with Deanne Bergsma
with the protagonists
as intimately involved as possible.
When we get here, step right?
Every modern choreographer
has his own approach
and his own way of using his dancers.
Tetley's idea in Field Figures was
to explore certain kinds of movement.
To see and use a visible break.
To realise balance is a constant state
rather than a heart-stopping verticality.
And, above all, to emphasise continuity.
It takes time for dancers and audiences
to accept other forms of movement
and a different kind of music.
It had to be studied from the beginning,
like going back to school.
Nureyev said that
what was wonderful for him
was the actual experience
of working directly with Tetley.
One remark Tetley made about Field Figures
was that he used many animal images
simply to stimulate the dancers
to move more deeply.
Bird, snake, monkey.
Positions of display and submission.
Patterns of defining boundaries.
He wanted the movement to grow organically
within the arbitrarily chosen context
and to develop its own relationships
and tensions as it did so.
Formation happened in England,
not in Russia.
I had the baggage of knowledge
but, how to operate with it,
I learned in England.
And I spent most of my dancing years
in England.
So it means a lot to me.
But to say, like, London is my home
or France or Paris or Italy or Milan.
Or Vienna, I can't say that.
I live in suitcases.
And my only ground is my work,
at the moment.
Well, it was my very greatest fortune
to meet Margot.
I invited him to make his first appearance
in England at this charity matinee.
It was a very exciting moment.
At the time, Rudolf was
very anxious that I should dance with him.
I hadn't met him at all and
all the negotiations went on by telephone.
But I thought:
"Well, I've never seen this boy."
"He's half my age and why should he insist
that I dance with him at this matinee?"
Somehow I didn't dance with him
at that performance
but, at his next appearance in England,
I did do Giselle with him
and ever since then.
We've danced together a great deal.
I'm very happy that
I finally did accept to dance with him
because I've gained a lot from it.
Well, I think it's complex and
very simple.
And always interesting.
Often he's very amusing and to say that
one was never going to be bored with him.
He has a lot of changes of mood.
Sometimes they're bad but they're not very serious.
He doesn't mean them.
He means it at the time
but, in five minutes, it's gone.
So his character perhaps superficially
might appear to have bad sides,
but most of them
I don't think are important.
Margot Fonteyn and Nureyev
are rehearsing Marguerite and Armand,
a ballet which was created for them
by Sir Frederick Ashton.
I have a great shot of her
running away, looking away.
I'm a very romantic character, so
naturally I'm drawn to romantic heroines.
And Marguerite Gautier is somebody
who's always fascinated me.
And I read a great deal about her.
Then, quite by accident,
I heard this sonata of Liszt's
one day on the wireless.
And I sat there and I saw the whole thing
that could be contained in this music.
Margot seemed to me
the epitome of Marguerite Gautier.
Rudolf seemed to me the epitome of Armand.
Well, I guess Fred's got a very good eye
for typecasting.
Well, he's a passionate human being
and Armand was a passionate human being.
I'm often accused that it was just merely
a vehicle for two star performers
and I said: "What's wrong with that?"
I mean, Sarah Bernhardt had many vehicles
written for her
and were very successful.
She also was a great Dame aux Camlias.
I can't imagine that it could feel better
to be acting or singing the role.
It's marvellous to dance it.
And, of course, to dance it with Rudolf.
I also couldn't imagine dancing it
with anybody else.
I think it has to be Rudolf as Armand.
It was a very, very important moment,
I would say, the first ballet
being choreographed for me.
I didn't want it at all
to be a realistic thing.
I wanted it to be more...
poetical evocation.
In the last moments of her life,
Marguerite, a courtesan
known as La Dame aux Camlias,
dying of consumption
relives, in a delirious dream,
the story of her passion for Armand.
How they met at a party
and fell in love at first sight.
She remembers
how she left her rich protector
and went to live happily
with Armand in the country.
Until the day when Armand's father arrived
and begged her to leave her young lover,
which she did without telling him why.
Misunderstanding her motives,
Armand followed and publicly insulted her
by throwing money in her face.
Alone, she lies dying.
But Armand hears the truth,
at last, from his father
and returns in time for Marguerite
to die in his arms.
One of the things Nureyev
is most proud of in his career
is his partnership with Fonteyn.
"If there's no understanding and no trust
between you and your partner, he said,
it hardly matters how well you dance."
"But, when I dance with Fonteyn,
there is one aim, one vision."
"There is no tearing us apart."
He's always been glad to dance
with others too
to match himself against another
personality, other points of view.
When the chance comes
to try something new,
he's always eager to take it.
A dancer's career is a short one.
He has to dance.
It's no good sitting around waiting.
Of course, between the new challenges,
he always goes back to the Classics.
They are the basis for all his other work.
So much so, in fact,
that he has produced
his own original versions
of all the great Russian classics
he was brought up on.
Ballets such as Swan Lake,
The Sleeping Beauty,
The Nutcracker,
Don Quixote,
Raymonda, and others.
Now, in the wings, Nureyev
and Lynn Seymour get ready to dance
the big classical pas de deux from
the last act of The Sleeping Beauty.
This is the moment before any performance,
of a familiar work or a new one,
when the long grind of daily class
and rehearsal have their justification.
The hard work isn't over.
The hardest part, in fact, begins
when the dancer steps on stage.
But now, in front of an audience,
the work is transformed
and can become its own reward.
Whatever the ballet
he has been dancing that night,
there comes the moment
when it is all over.
When he can gradually relax
from the tension,
can enjoy, for a time, a private life
like anyone else.
But not for long.
Tomorrow, the routine will start
all over again.
What does he say himself?
"You may look cool on stage,
but it has taken so much effort
to prepare."
"Of course there are compensations,
applause and praise."
"But the reward of your own satisfaction..."
"That doesn't come so often."
"All the same, life is one's work."
"There is nothing else."
"While I'm working,
I'm content."
"That is it, simply."
"You have to be faithful to what you do."
"Dancing is what I do."
"It is my life."