Ballet Star. The son of a Red Army commissar, he was encouraged to dance in Bashkir folk festivals, where his talent became apparent. He enrolled in the Vaganova Choreographic Institute in 1955, where he was quickly recognized as one of the greatest dancers the school had seen in many years. He became one of Russia's biggest stars, and was allowed the privilege of travel abroad. During a tour of Paris in 1961, he broke the rule against mingling with foreigners, and was told he would be sent home. Realizing this meant he would never be allowed out, he defected on June 17th. He joined the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, and was an instant celebrity. His dramatic defection, astonishing skill, and dashing good looks made him an international star, which gave him the power to choose where and with whom he would dance. He then joined the Royal Ballet, which would remain his base for the rest of his dancing career. His performances with Margot Fonteyn in "Swan Lake" and "Giselle" became legendary. He began his acting career in 1962, but lacked the talent or temperament to be a serious actor. His beauty, charm, and talent caused him to be forgiven many things, but he was known to be a very difficult man. He was impulsive, moody, unreliable, and rude. He mixed with the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Andy Warhol, and had very little time for non-celebrities. In 1983 he became the director of the Paris Opera Ballet. He contracted HIV in the early 80's, but denied any illness. By 1990 it became undeniable he was seriously ill. His last performance, at the Palais Garnier in 1992, earned him France's highest cultural award, the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Artes et Lettres. He died as a result of AIDS a few months later at the age of 54.
Bio by: Kristen Conrad