Rudolf Nureyev as Franz and Erik Bruhn as Dr. Coppélius in Bruhn's production of Coppélia, August 1975

Beverly Gallegos, Courtesy DM Archives

#TBT: The Summer Rudolf Nureyev and Erik Bruhn Shared a Stage

In the summer of 1975, the National Ballet of Canada's extended tour stop in New York City overlapped with American Ballet Theatre's season. Both companies took advantage of having two of ballet's greatest male stars, Rudolf Nureyev and Erik Bruhn, at their disposal. Bruhn, however, had retired from portraying princes three years earlier and appeared primarily in character roles—the Dr. Coppélius to Nureyev's Franz, the Madge to his James, giving audiences the rare chance to see them share a stage.

The two had met shortly after Nureyev's 1961 defection and were romantically involved off and on until Bruhn's death in 1986 at age 57. As part of a tribute to Bruhn published in the June 1986 issue of Dance Magazine, John Gruen shared quotes from interviews he'd conducted for the late dancer's biography. Of Nureyev, Bruhn said, "With all my acclaim of being the West's leading male dancer, I had reached a dead end. Seeing Rudik move was an enormous inspiration. It was through watching him that I could free myself and try to discover that looseness of his."

Beverly Gallegos, Courtesy DM Archives

Erik Bruhn as Dr. Coppélius and Rudolf Nureyev as Franz in Bruhn's production of Coppélia

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Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

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February 2021