The White Crow

Updated: Mar 8, 2019


Known as "The White Crow" from childhood, because of his singularity, Rudolf Nureyev was taken from his beloved mother in rural Ufa to train as a classical ballet dancer in the Kirov. The White Crow traces his life from a small boy in peasant dress, dazzled by chandeliers at the Opera, to his defection in Paris in 1961. Born on a train, his travels both literal and metaphorical, culminate, after buying a toy Siberian Express train set, at Orly Airport when he suspects he will be deported back to prison for his freewheeling abroad.


The White Crow, spoken mostly in Russian, weaves its way through the Nureyev’s life in drab and exacting Soviet institutions, using and ending with black and white flashbacks of his childhood. There is an overpowering sense of this institutionalisation which tries but fails to restrain Nureyev’s passion, but without which he might not have learnt ballet technique from the best.

Oleg Ivenko as Rudolph Nureyev in The White Crow, director Ralph Fiennes, writer David Hare



Director: Ralph Fiennes

Cast: Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann

Screenwriter: David Hare

Country: UK, Serbia, France





"The Ukranian dancer Oleg Ivenko, is Nureyev incarnate on screen."

"For Nureyev, the worst punishment is never returning to his mother’s side. This wrench is poignant in The White Crow, and the whisper that he will be assassinated (ringing bells for a contemporary audience) brings home the enormity of his actions."

This is no better portrayed than by Ralph Fiennes as Nureyev’s chosen teacher and Fienne’s relationship with the fiery “Lord of the Dance” as Nureyev came to be known. The fact that Nureyev has an affair with his wife, is less of a betrayal for the renowned teacher, than his protégé’s defection from his motherland which cuts his teacher the core. For Nureyev, the worst punishment is never returning to his mother’s side. This wrench is poignant in The White Crow, and the whisper that he will be assassinated (ringing bells for a contemporary audience) brings home the enormity of his actions.


Fiennes acts diminished and unassuming, whilst conveying the knowing brilliance of an impresario. The Ukranian dancer Oleg Ivenko, is Nureyev incarnate on screen. His striking looks match his impressive performance as a dancer and debut actor.


In Cinemas March 2019

CULTURE REVIEWS AND PODCASTS LONDON 2020

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