SAN FRANCISCO — Imagine the police surprise when, during a routine 1967 raid on a party in the Haight-Ashbury district, they hauled in not only weed and hippies but also two of the world’s most celebrated ballet dancers.
Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn — he in a coat and tie, she in a glamorous white fur — landed in jail after their rooftop arrest. They were just hours removed from the Opera House where they had performed with the Royal Ballet in Roland Petit’s “Paradise Lost,” a work created especially for them.
But while their late-night spree of frugging and bongo playing with a group of fans they’d met backstage was cut short, Nureyev didn’t go silently into the pokey. According to one witness, he “put on quite a show” as he was led to the police van.
The yellowed newspaper clipping about the arrest, displayed in “Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance,” through Feb. 17, 2013, at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, leaves the details of the ballet star’s flamboyant exit to the imagination. But after taking in the high theatricality of his existence illuminated in this exhibit, you can rough in a picture of how Nureyev must have delighted in some playful provocation.