Farewell to Pierre Lacotte, ballet archaeologist. He helped Nureyev escape from Russia

He looked at the sea, in the silence of the bay he had chosen to spend the last years of his life. Seated, looking at the large window, surrounded by tapestries and ancient statues, he had welcomed us, making himself ready for what was probably his last interview with him. He had thought of everything. Choosing the best corner of his living room, printing photos with his friend Rudy, even preparing a flash drive with the best extracts from his Marco Spada at the Rome Opera House. Because, as she had repeatedly told me, she had “promised Rudolf to always show the best of him”. Wrapped in his white scarf, with a dark suit, he was there, waiting for us, with all the elegance of a danseur noble. A danseur noble who wrote the history of dance for having reconstructed the great ballets of the 19th century. For this he was called “the archaeologist of ballet”.


Pierre Lacotte passed away today at the age of 91. This was announced by his wife Ghislaine Thesmar, prima ballerina and splendid dancer, lifelong companion. Dancer, teacher, choreographer, artistic director, Lacotte was also the one who helped Rudolf Nureyev escape from Russia and seek political asylum in France in 1961. We met him last December at his home near Toulon on the occasion of the Sky special Tg24 dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the death of Rudolf Nureyev (in the video above an excerpt, below the integral).

He helped Nureyev in the defection

Turning on the red light of the camera, Maestro Lacotte immediately began to go back in time and in his memories. And to give us a historical and unique testimony of those moments of great tension experienced at Le Bourget airport in Paris. A moving story, detailed and full of different emotions. Fear, dread, disbelief, nervousness. An extraordinary testimony that will remain over time, like the great ballets he brought back to life, like The Sylphs or Pharaoh’s daughter. Or those that he created from scratch like Le Roige and Le Noirinspired by Stendhal’s famous novel in 2021, his latest work.