The absence of the French prima ballerina at the gala tribute at the London Coliseum on Sunday week is particularly poignant as she was Nureyev's protege. He trained and encouraged her when he was director of the Paris Opera Ballet. She walked out after a row with him over her contract and joined the Royal Ballet as principal guest artist in 1989, causing questions to be asked in France's National Assembly. She patched up the estrangement with her mentor before his death, describing him as 'not from this planet at all, he is a genius'.
At Covent Garden, she has rapidly achieved an enormous reputation. Her unusually strong stage presence, aided by the longest legs in the company, a mane of auburn hair and compelling interpretations, particularly of contemporary works, have made her a major box-office draw. Critics have compared her effect on the Royal Ballet with that of Nureyev after his defection in 1962.
Backstage, the 28-year-old dancer has achieved a different reputation. Fellow dancers have found her studiously aloof.
The tribute to Nureyev, who died of Aids last year, will raise money for the Aids charity Crusaid. It has attracted the cream of international dance of the last 25 years, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Irek Mukhamedov, Darcey Bussell, Anthony Dowell, Lynn Seymour and Antoinette Sibley.
A Royal Ballet spokeswoman said Miss Guillem was out of the country and made her own decisions about invitations received.