BBC start broadcasting their new drama-documentary film depicting an extraordinary story of how Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West during the first ever major tour of a Russian ballet company, at the height of the Cold War — and became a living legend.

Source: ВВС

© 2015 Hulton/Getty; BBC — Rudolf Nureyev (Artem Ovcharenko)

A dramatised documentary, it is a tale of love and betrayal, ballet and espionage; political intrigue and the triumph of artistic expression.

The film immerses viewers in a thrilling recreation of the events in the four months that led to Nureyev’s defection at Paris’s Le Bourget airport on June 16 1961, helping to change the course of the Cold War. It shows how those events transformed not only Nureyev’s personal fame and fortune, but those of everyone else around him, and offers a chance to hear this story from those who participated in it.

Contributors include Nureyev’s dancing partner on the Kirov tour, Alla Osipenko, and rival male soloist Sergei Vikulov. It also features the two principal figures instrumental in Nureyev’s defection: his intimate friend Clara Saint; and the dancer and choreographer Pierre Lacotte, whose life was also changed by these extraordinary events. The film also features contributions from KGB officers with direct experience of Soviet musical tours to the West and defections.

Rudolf is performed by Bolshoi Ballet Principal Artem Ovcharenko, a dancer who shares an uncanny likeness and extraordinary identification with Nureyev, and the dramatisation features leading Russian actors and ballet dancers.

Dance to Freedom is a close-focus, multi-layered account of one of the most thrilling intrigues of the Twentieth century; uniquely told in a mix of revelatory testimony, tense dramatization, and spectacular dance performance of Nureyev’s roles, offering an original interpretation of why the defection took place and is a timely reminder of what happens when art and politics collide.

© 2015 Alexey Kostromin; ВВС/IWC Media — Rudolf Nureyev (Artem Ovcharenko)

Producer/Director Richard Curson Smith
Executive Producer for IWC Franny Moyle
Executive Producers for BBC Greg Sanderson and Jan Younghusband

Watch BBC TWO on Saturday 19 December at 8.50pm