I Am A Dancer
Review by Willard Manus

Attention all dance lovers! Film Movement has reissued the 1972 documentary about Rudolf Nureyev, I AM A DANCER, in an upgraded HD version which makes the film seem as fresh and engaging as the original.

Directed by French film-maker Pierre Jourdan, I AM A DANCER focuses on Nureyev’s life and work, with emphasis on his iconic performances with his longtime partner, Margot Fonteyn. There are also generous excerpts from the ballets he danced with Deanne Bergsma, Carla Fracci and Lynn Seymour. With a narration written by John Percival and spoken by Bryan Forbes, I AM A DANCER provides a unique glimpse into Nureyev’s personality, preparation and technique.

Nureyev was at the height of his powers in 1972. Having recently defected from the Soviet Union, the 22-year-old dancer joined the Royal Ballet in England, where he teamed up with Fonteyn. More than twice his age, she was still able to match his energy, drive and dazzling technique, as evidenced by the performance of “Marguerite and Armand” captured in the DVD.

As much as Nureyev admired and respected Fonteyn, he still continued to seek out other partners, especially those who were rooted in the American dance world. “I love classical dance,” he explained, “but I wanted to expand my range and investigate modern dance.” He did just that in 1975 when he joined Martha Graham’s company.

Nureyev was in awe of Graham; she in turn was thrilled by his physicality and charm, his hunger for movement. “Martha described him as a voracious animal, always willing to take chances, go to the edge,” said Terese Capucilli, an ex-Graham dancer who is one of many talking heads in I AM A DANCER.

The documentary alternates between Nureyev’s stage performances and his off-stage work: long hours of rehearsal which demonstrate his commitment and passion. “I dance my best when I’m tired and get my second wind,” he stated in one interview. “My life is dance, I live in my suitcase, traveling to one recital after another, in cities like New York, London, Paris and Brussels.”

Jourdan’s cinematic portrait of Nureyev is a memorable and ground-breaking one. It paved the way for such other illustrious dance documentaries as Pina Bausch’s “Pina” and Alla Kovgan’s “Cunningham.”