In 1922 Nadine Nicolaeva was granted six months sick leave Nicolai was allowed to accompany her abroad. They never returned. Settling in London, Nicolai created a ballet for the Palladium, which he called The Moscow Arts Ballet, and started his own school of ballet in Fitzroy Square. In 1925 Sergei Diaghilev engaged him as ballet master to replace Enrico Cecchetti, who had returned to Milan after a tiff with the Impresario. He abandoned a flourishing school to tour with Diaghilev’s Ballet to Berlin and Monte Carlo but found the company in disarray and the repertoire too modern for his taste. Nadine who joined with him as soloist, was soon dissatisfied with her parts and Nicolai did not enjoy teaching dancers from many schools, most of whom did not understand the artistry and epaulement of his class. After a brief spell he left Diaghilev without regrets.

For a while, he tried to teach in Paris, but, encountering obstruction from some established teachers and facing penury, he eventually returned to London in 1930.
Here he established his school of ballet at 46 Colet Gardens and made some choreographies for the Camargo Society. The school became a Mecca for émigré Russians and leading dancers from all over the world. During those last years, he influenced some out standing young English male dancers, including Anton Dolin, Harold Turner, Michael Soames, Alan Carter, Stanley Judson and Jack Spurgon. Among the Female dancers were Ruth French, Phyllis Bedells, Nanette de Valois, Alicia Markova, Margot Fonteyn, Pearl Aryle, Mary Honer, June Brae, Wendy Toye, Barbara Vernon, Joy Camden, Moira Shearer and many more. During the last years, he became a sad old man who had strayed from his destined course and was lovesick for his homeland. He smoked a lot, swore in Russian (he never learned English) and made caricatures of his pupils. He never betrayed his sadness in public and taught divinely to the end.
He was deeply loved and revered by all, though his tongue could be very sharp. He sweetened all by his brilliant wit and the gentleness of his personality; a nostalgic clown who talked gibberish and mimed like a monkey, but whose class was impeccable.

John Gregory