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So I thought: "If I'm going to go out there and dance with this boy, I'm really going to have to make a colossal effort." 'That really, in a way, was the basis of our success together.' With a petite, slim figure, she couldn't have contrasted more with Nureyev and his powerful neck, broad shoulders and muscular body.
He mesmerised audiences by the way he could lift ballerinas into the air longer than anyone else and his lightning leaps across the stage.
After all, at 42 she had been expected to retire from ballet.
'He was a very strong, fantastic dancer, but remember I was 20 years older.
She loved to laugh almost as much as she loved dancing.
She, meanwhile, danced Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, performing astonishing - spinning on one toe for longer than any other ballerina of her day.
So much for their working partnership, but, I asked her, what does Rudolf actually mean to you? 'He's very direct and doesn't go in for falseness or hypocrisy.
And that lunchtime - the start of our great and enduring friendship - she confided to me over her veal cutlets and salad the truth on the subject about which everyone was gossiping: her relationship with Rudolf Nureyev.
A major ballet star in Russia at the age of only 22, in 1961 he had defected at Le Bourget airport in Paris and been given political asylum in the West.
'Rudolf would do a solo and there would be tremendous excitement. Then I would dance my solo and I would get much more applause simply because he had already warmed them up.