Russian. Studied at the Leningrad Ballet School after dancing in amateur groups and with the Ufa Opera Ballet. Danced with the Kirov Ballet from 1958-1961. Defected in Paris in 1961.
Briefly joined the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas in 1961, worked as a "guest star" with both contemporary and classical companies worldwide since. Formed a highly publicized partnership with Margot Fonteyn.
Danced many roles including roles in Paradise Lost, Jazz Calendar, and The Scarlet Letter. Restaged ballets such as La Bayadère, Raymonda, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Don Quixote. Subject of the film I Am a Dancer. Debut as a speaking actor as Rudolph Valentino, (1977). Author of his autobiography: Nureyev, subject of The Nureyev Image.