In the Spring of 1991 Rudolf asked me to write a chapter for his autobiography. He asked me to write about our Leningrad days at the Vaganova Choreographic Institute where we were roommates 1957-58. He got this letter in May of 1991 but never got his autobiography done. Rudolf passed away on January 6th, 1993.              

                                           I wanted to share this with all of you!


It seemed to me that three things were very important to you in Russia: Vaganova Institute, Natalia Dudinskaya, and Alexander Pushkin. You were attached to theses three like a loyal dog. They all were important in molding a rare talent into a dancer and later into an artist.

You were interested in doing things that no one else had done in ballet before. You did not care if achieving new heights took more energy and time. Your brain also ticked to a different clock than the rest of the world's. Your mind was already at least ten years more developed than the rest of us boys' your age. That is why you also were able to produce more in a day.

You were hungry to learn everything. Going to the Symphony was one of your favorites. Often when the rest of us went to see ballet with "kontramarka," you had time to see major parts in ballets, and also go to the symphony the same night.

That reminds me of the fact that you were always (or often) coming home to the Internate after the front door was locked. We, your roommates had to take turns in pulling you in from the window. Luckily we lived on the first floor. Well, we really did not mind, since we all knew why you were late. We had great respect towards you as a dancer and as an intellect.

We would engage ourselves in conversations, each one of us had stupid, childish opinions about everything. But when you finally voice your opinion, we all accepted it and the case was closed.

Your photographic memory was like a good negative; it does not fail. I remember when you saw your first western ballet company: The Finnish National Ballet perform "L'Epreuve d'amour" and Sibelius' "Scaramouche", a year later you were dancing for me different variations from those ballets. Everything about you seemed super developed.

The untamable Tatar, which you still are, has in my opinion, always been your blessing. Already at eighteen years of age there was that special "fire" that was burning on stage. That ever-burning flame never went out, it is still there today.

Your technique had always something extra, new, something we had never seen before. There was certain "anger of enjoyment," there always was an evolvement of ballet, refinement to the hilt, it is difficult to explain. Your Tours chaines deboules were so fast we could not figure out how many times you went around. Not only the speed, but after that you finished with a breathtaking First Arabesque balance.

I remember your jump very well. In "Le Corsaire" sometimes you jumped so high at your entrance, that you had to release one hand from your shoulder in order to balance on the impact of landing. And I was thinking how your knees and low back could take that landing after such an incredible jump. Now that I am fifty years of age, I have enough experience, I have seen enough jumps, I can say: Your "flight" remains the highest and the most beautiful.

You made the audience so hot, that they were endlessly chanting: "Rudi, Rudi, Rudi...!"

Controversy followed you already during school time. You were an "issue of opinion." The school teachers were split between Yuri Soloviev and you, so were the students. In the Kirov Theatre there was a "Rudi Section" and a "Yuri Section." You two were such opposites. Yuri was so precise, by the book, cool classical dancer. He was as exact as the Law of Vaganova.

When your section in the audience was chanting "Rudi," Yuri's Section was chanting "Shhh," and of course visa versa. The Revolution continued until your defection.

By the tradition of the School, the best student always performed last. It was you.

Mme Natalia Dudinskaya was Prima Ballerina of Kirov Ballet, and danced with the company for thirty three years. When she saw you, she was intelligent enough to make an exception in the traditional "law" of joining the Kirov Ballet. She pulled the only student in history into a principal dancer position. And you partnered the Prima Ballerina.

I guess that told everyone what you were in the eyes of true professionals.

This of course made you very confident, and your own demands started to grow. All your demands were strictly professional, and naturally you got your way.

You cut your jacket up to the waist in order to show a longer leg line. Until this time it was not proper to show your derriere. You made it proper.

You lifted your Pirouette passé position from ankle to the knee. Demi point was also low at that time. But you lifted it high (as it is still today). Men's a la seconde Pirouettes were done with a forty five degree leg, but you changed it to ninety degrees. It is still good today.

In "Laurencia" you did not want to fake the castanets during your variation, so you learned to play them. You danced and played, and it was beautiful.

Everything you wanted, you got. All the changes you made, were good. And you worked yourself to death to achieve your goals.

School time for you was probably the most difficult time, because your over-developed will and urge most of the time was against the rules.

I had come from the "West," and saw things very differently from others. I always thought it was such a shame that so many people thought you were a "problem" at the school. I thought you were part of the Refinement of Classical Ballet.

You missed your breakfast many times, you had to sleep late, because you came home late. Most of the time you had stayed late in order to hear the Symphony finish the concert.

At night your favorite drink was tea {well, we did not have Coke or 7 Up.) You drank it straight out of the old, dented kettle.

You shuffled your feet like an old tired man. Maybe your legs were exhausted from classes and rehearsals, since you worked the hardest.

You and Alla Sizova made a fantastic pair in "Le Corsaire."

You seemed to be interested in studying mostly ballet and music history, and of course languages. You were not interested in politics or other subjects that were not closely related to ballet.  

In my opinion you have been and still are a good sincere person. Of course, if anyone purposely irritated you, you gave a full Tatar Treatment back. When you were resting your legs in bed (next to mine), your arms were working, searching for that ultimate Port de bras.

You had a funny way to bury yourself inside the sheets, no head or feet showing when you slept. We boys just were wondering how you were able to breath.

While the rest of us took a bus or tram to go somewhere, you walked. Probably it meant mental and physical rest for you.

When we went to the Kirov Theatre with "kontramarka," you always managed to get the best available seat. It was a united decision of the ticket takers, who were elderly specialists at the Kirov. I guess they could tell who the 100% student was, out of the rest of us rookies.

The curse words among the roommates were very mild by today's standards. The bad words used were: elephant, pig, dog, horse, etc.

When we were arguing about ballet, and could not find a conclusion, you voiced your opinion, and we all were happy. There was nothing more to say, your opinion was complete and intelligent. About ninety percent of our conversations at the Internate were about ballet, our lives had only ballet.

You gave me your beautiful ballet photos to take with me, when I went back home to Finland. Later on I understood why, and gave them back to you after your defection. You were ready to defect very early, you asked for my expired passport. I was afraid to give it to you, since Finland had a special contract with Russia in order to be free. I was afraid we both might end up in prison. At that time defection was not a known fact. No one had done it.

Your problems with Shilkov were basically about behavior in public places. How to greet and bow to him, etc. Everyone knew about this tension at the school. I guess you did not want to fake anything, even privately. You were what you were, honestly, and could not fake.

I remember coming to guest perform to Kirov Ballet in 1957 in "Bakhchisaraysky Fontan," after which I wanted enter the school. No westerners had come before. The school showed us the best talents at the time. The last one to dance was you. After that little demonstration we only talked about you. That is my first introduction to your incredible career. That picture is still in my mind, there is no way I could write about my feelings at that moment. I knew I had seen an Ultimate Ballet Dancer! And the next Autumn I became the roommate of the Ultimate Ballet Dancer!

You were interested in how everything was done in the West. You asked about the height of the leg in pirouettes passes, splits, etc.

When you saw Michel Renault do his entrechat six's in "Giselle" Act II, it made such an impression on you, that still after age 40 you were still doing those famous six's in "Giselle."

You never asked for anything. You were too proud. You'd rather suffer than beg. I don't believe you ask for many things today either.

Before performances you had a strange ability to get extra sensitive psychologically, extra powerful. It was the kind of power like when you get very angry. Only, you were able to direct that power productively into your performances. It was a wonderful combination of your beautiful looks, and this raw strength in you. It was out of this world.

The only person, who was able to guide you, was Alexander Pushkin. When after the performances you were on cloud nine, he kept correcting you right after the performance, as well as right before. This was probably not the most delightful thing for you right after the crowd had gone "crazy" over your performance, but you always accepted it with a certain beautiful humbleness.

One of your idols at that time was Vakhtang Chaboukiani, who was incredible in "Flames of Paris" with Mme Dudinskaya.

You would show me a picture of Nijinsky, and ask if I thought your profile was better than his. Of course it was. And so were the legs!

You had gotten some English ballet calendars with pictures of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Nerina, Somes, Beriosova, and Grey. You were anxious to know all about their skills.

No one had to tell you anything twice, you remembered everything at once. You were very tough and demanding on yourself.

At the time of your defection in Paris, I was in Leningrad. Just a couple of days before a new publication of Kirov Ballet Stars' book came to the book stores. I bought it, and there you were on the last page: "the newest star." But immediately after your defection, the book disappeared, as did your picture from the walls of Kirov Theatre. I later gave you that book in San Francisco.

On the day of your defection I was taking class with your teacher, Alexander Pushkin. He was the most disoriented, confused person I had ever seen. He knew he would never see you again. It was as if something of him died.

The balletomanes of Leningrad that day knew they would be missing what they had been dreaming about.

                                                           Remember the Purple Tights?

                                                            Remember kto pasletni!