Cover image for Dancer : a novel
Dancer : a novel
McCann, Colum, 1965-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Metropolitan Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
336 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Library

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From the acclaimed author of This Side of Brightness , the epic life and times of Rudolf Nureyev, reimagined in a dazzlingly inventive masterpiece-published to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Nureyev's death
A Russian peasant who became an international legend, a Cold War exile who inspired millions, an artist whose name stood for genius, sex, and excess-the magnificence of Rudolf Nureyev's life and work are known, but now Colum McCann, in his most daring novel yet, reinvents this erotically charged figure through the light he cast on those who knew him.
Taking his inspiration from the biographical facts, McCann tells the story through a chorus of voices: there is Anna Vasileva, Rudi's first ballet teacher, who rescues her protégé from the stunted life of his town; Yulia, whose sexual and artistic ambitions are thwarted by her Soviet-sanctioned marriage; and Victor, the Venezuelan hustler, who reveals the lurid underside of the gay celebrity set. Spanning four decades and many worlds, from the horrors of Stalingrad to the wild abandon of New York in the eighties, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous: doormen and shoemakers, Margot Fonteyn and John Lennon. And at the heart of the spectacle stands the artist himself, willful, lustful, and driven by a never-to-be-met need for perfection.
In ecstatic prose, McCann evokes the distinct consciousness of the man and the glittering reflection of the myth. The result is a monumental story of love, art, and exile.

Author Notes

Irish writer Colum McCann was born near Dublin in 1965 and graduated from the University of Texas with a B.A. degree. He has worked as a newspaper journalist in Ireland and written several short stories and bestselling novels. The short film of Everything in this Country Must was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005.

McCann's work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, The Irish Times, La Repubblica, Die Zeit, Paris Match, the Guardian, and the Independent. He has won numerous awards, such as a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Irish Novel of the Year Award, and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award. In 2009 McCann was inducted into the Irish arts association Aosdana. He teaches in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program at New York's Hunter College.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For three decades, the legend of ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev spread from continent to continent: the semicultured boy from Ufa who takes the Leningrad dance world by storm; political asylum in Paris; the amazing partnership with Margot Fonteyn; the matinee idol dancer; the hyperactive sex life; the enfant terrible. Actual events and qualities of Nureyev's public persona are tossed together in this novel, and his legend, nearly 10 years after his death, becomes myth. Some of the characters are real (Fonteyn, for instance), while others have sprung from the author's imagination. McCann is such a good writer that, real or not, the characters' powerful voices lead the reader to suspend disbelief on an entirely deeper level. Only dance writers and true Rudi fanatics will be able to distinguish the real from the imaginary, and one even suspects they might have some problems. Still, even those who have never been to a ballet--or seen Nureyev dance--will find this book enjoyable. --Frank Caso

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this unique biographical novel, McCann creates a portrait of Rudolf Nureyev as perceived by the people who knew him. Using a cast of actors (William Dufris and others) to voice Nureyev's contemporaries presents a fractured likeness--as if we are seeing reflections of his life in shards of mirror. Not a true biography, this work is more a character study of the many people in the dancer's life and the cultural changes that took place during his lifetime. The actors perform admirably--accents from many countries are handled with skill. The audiobook spans Nureyev's years of poverty in the Soviet Union through his wildly decadent life in Andy Warhol's New York--seeming to leave few stones unturned. The environments in Dancer are as changeable as light refracted through a prism. Recommended for libraries with contemporary literature or dance collections.--Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

The author of This Side of Brightness reinvents the life of Rudolf Nureyev. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Dancer : Just when we all thought they were finished, a small blond boy stepped out of the line. He extended his legs, placed his hands firmly on his hips and hitched his thumbs at his back. He bent his neck slightly forward, stretched his elbows out and began. The soldiers in their beds propped themselves up. The boy went to the floor for a squatting dance. We all stood silently watching. The boy grinned. Some soldiers began clapping in rhythm but, just as the dance was about to end, the boy almost fell. His hand slapped the floor and broke the impact. For a moment he looked as if he was about to cry, but he didn't, he was up once more, his blond hair flopping over his eyes. When he finished the ward was full of applause. Someone offered the boy a cube of sugar. He blushed and slipped it into the top of his sock and then he stood around with his hands in his pockets, rolling his shoulders from side to side. Excerpted from Dancer: A Novel by Colum McCann All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.