“The main thing is dancing, and before it withers away from my body, I will keep dancing till the last moment, the last drop.” – Rudolf Nureyev
As far as lessons in dedication and commitment go, there can surely be no greater example than Rudolf Nureyev, who was born in Stalin’s poverty-stricken Russia in 1938 on a Trans-Siberian train.
Beginning his dance training as a boy with amateur folk groups, he fought to go to ballet school, then rose quickly through the ranks of the Kirov Ballet as a soloist, increasingly becoming known as a rebel and non-conformist. He defected to The West in 1961 during a tour with the Kirov in Paris, despite all attempts by the KGB to prevent him from doing so. Already a huge star in Russia, the defection immediately made him even more of an international sensation, alongside the charismatic and electrifying performances with which he was revolutionizing ballet. He went on to dance for the Grand Ballet, The Royal Ballet in London — notably where he was first partnered with Dame Margot Fonteyn — and finally the Paris Opera Ballet, where he eventually became director, mentoring future stars of the ballet world.
In a visual celebration of this inspirational, self-proclaimed ‘vagabond soul’, and fueled by his legacy that dance could be the catharsis we all need right now, we spent a day with actor Will Peltz, channeling the Nureyev energy in to a series of incredible portraits shot by frequent Mr Feelgood contributor Kurt Iswarienko.
Known for roles in such cult hits as ‘Euphoria’ and ‘Unfriended’, Will tells us about researching Nureyev, his exciting new projects for the new year, how he finds release in his life, and his hopes of a return to human connectedness in 2021.
We hope the vitality of the shoot can inspire us all to leap with renewed vigor into the new year. Because, as Nureyev said, “You live as long as you dance.”
Were you aware of Rudolf Nureyev before this shoot?
I was aware that he was one of the most renowned ballet dancers to ever live, but I honestly did not know very much about him or his work.
How did you research? What inspired you?
Doing the research was one of my favorite parts of the process of this shoot. I was so inspired by his grace and fluidity on stage. He embodied both the masculine and the feminine, a perfect combination of androgyny which I found so beautiful and attractive.
How was the shoot to work on?
It was my favorite shoot I’ve ever done. Mostly when doing shoots it’s about the clothes you’re wearing, but with this shoot it was all about embodying another human and getting into character. It felt transformative and not like me, so naturally I loved it.
Nureyev had dance. Do you have a wellness practice for your mind and spirit?
Honestly, I’m really inconsistent when it comes to it, but when I started meditating regularly it helped me to compartmentalize and organize my troubles and worries. This made my problems easier to deal with, because I could see how each individual issue would affect me, rather than feeling any overwhelming sense of depression.
Where do you go to escape?
Heights. I love seeing things from a birds eye view. It’s so peaceful and calming to me, it puts things into perspective.
How do you find peace?
In a bathtub.
What makes you laugh?
Judd Apatow movies.
What projects are you working on and excited about?
This fall I’ve been living in New York filming NBC’s Manifest, which has been such a wonderful experience all around. I’m really excited that 13 Minutes, a movie we shot in Oklahoma last year, will be released in 2021; and eager to start getting into character for Generation Angst shooting this spring, which is set in the 90s, where I’ll be playing a deadbeat rock band member.
What are your hopes and wishes for 2021, both personally and for the world?
Because of Covid there have been many walls put up between people, whether it be social distancing, plexiglass dividers, or communicating way more behind phone screens and technology. I hope in 2021 we can get back to a world filled with human-to-human connection and communication, face-to-face conversations and physical contact. At the end of the day those basic human needs and connectedness are vital to our lives.
Hair by Maranda Widlund at The Wall Group. Make up by Jo Strettell at Tracy Mattingly.
To learn more about Rudolf Nureyev, we loved ‘The White Crow’ movie, written by David Hare and directed by Ralph Fiennes, 2019; and ‘Nureyev: Lifting the Curtain’ a documentary also released in 2019, directed by Jacqui & David Morris.