Nureyev’s creative appetites also ran to refashioning some of ballet’s iconic works. One of his most radical off-script departures was the grandiose 1986 production of “Cinderella” that he choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet, which he was running at the time. It was set in the 1930s, and the title misfit goes from Depression grimness to Hollywood glamour when she’s discovered by a producer and makes her film debut. For Nureyev’s portrayal of the cigar-chomping producer/fairy godmother, Japanese fashion designer Hanae Mori created a full-cut herringbone wool coat, modeled on an Yves Saint Laurent topper Nureyev had snagged at a Paris flea market.
The exhibit’s largest display is also the most poignant: Tutus from the production of “La Bayadere” that Nureyev staged for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1992 are arrayed like statuary, with the gently sloping skirts that Nureyev preferred as more graceful than the paper-plate stiffness of the Russian style he’d known at the Kirov. As the costumes stand empty, film of the ballet’s “Kingdom of the Shades” scene is projected on the wall behind them. Over and over, dancers in white seem to float across the darkened space in a sequence of meditative choreography meant to evoke the afterlife.