Visiting Nureyev’s Grave

Ste.-Genevieve-des-Bois—The Russian cemetery is a 40-minute drive south of Paris. Many legendary Russian émigrés are buried here: musicians, writers, painters, dancers. I went this past spring to visit Rudolf Nureyev’s tomb, to pay respect to my dear friend, whose funeral, in 1993, I still recall so vividly—all the attendants in black descending the imperial staircase of the Paris Opéra to surround his coffin.

Here, all these years later, amid the shade trees and stone monuments, Ezio Frigerio, who worked with Rudolf on the design of many ballets, created a tomb built to Rudolf’s wishes. The covering—executed superbly in miniscule mosaics of gold, turquoise, and burgundy—is meant to suggest a Turkish kilim, heavily draped, with thick gold tassels that rest on a black marble plinth. A large Russian cross is emblazoned on the top.

I first saw Rudolf dance at Covent Garden and befriended him soon after his defection from the Soviet Union, in 1961. He introduced me to so much of what to this day gives me pleasure—the music of Scriabin, the writings of Lermontov. His tomb is a memorable and theatrical vision befitting an exceptional dancer, an incredible person, and my closest friend.