No male dancer ever had more influence on the history, style and public perception of ballet than Rudolf Nureyev. He changed people's expectations. Starting out from inauspicious beginnings in a remote town in the Urals, he ended up changing the whole face of the art.
By indefatigably performing a uniquely wide repertoire night after night, month after month, year after year, all over the world, he reached a wider audience than any rival, to which must be added millions more who saw him only in films and on television (he was filmed more than any other dancer before or probably since). But more important than the size of his audience was the effect on them of his charismatic personality and the utter dedication with which he performed. His own idiosyncratic way of putting it was that "every step must be sprayed with your blood".
The dramatic circumstances of his arrival in the West, his so-called "leap to freedom", put him immediately on the front pages of the world's newspapers, but it was his powerful personality that kept him there, and he made stubborn use of that position to develop in his own way.
Besides, as exemplar, partner, choreographer and director he gave other dancers opportunities they would not otherwise have enjoyed, and companies with which he worked became better, stronger and livelier for his presence.