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 Vatslav Nijinsky


Born:   1889
Deceased:   April 8, 1950

Ballet dancer

      

Within his short scenic life Vatslav Nijinsky enriched ballet with many brilliant artistic discoveries and left deathless fame and name behind him.
 

He was born in Kiev to the family of Russified Polish ballet dancers. His parents Eleonora Bereda and Tomash Nijinsky danced in Warsaw Emperor Theatre.
 

In 1898 he entered St.-Petersburg Theater College where he revealed his outstanding gifts pretty early. As a child yet he often danced on stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. At the age of 15 he sparked a furor with his part of the Faun in the ballet Acis and Galatea.
 

After graduating from the College he was employed in the Mariinsky Theatre and at once became the leading dancer, in spite of his appearance not quite fit for ballet: not tall and with heavy overdeveloped leg muscles. However Nijinsky transformed on the stage - exquisite grace, legerity and finesse along with perfect feeling of style made him unforgettable. His legendary gravity-defying leaps could not but amaze the public. He possessed a wonderful gift of dramatic identification and outstanding mimic capabilities. He radiated powerful magnetism on stage, though in daily life he was quite a shy and incommunicative person.
 

Nijinsky danced in duets with Karsavina and Pavlova. He was the lead in Fokin's productions of Pavilion of Armida, Egypt Nights, Chopeniana, etc.

All of a sudden Nijinsky was fired from the Mariinski Theatre. The reason was his unwarranted wearing of a costume designed by Benua for Jizel ballet. That was a replica of the historic German costume, which dismayed the public and the tsar's box with its close fitting tights.
 

Meeting with Sergei Diaghilev, a rich patron of arts, became a turning point for Nijinsky. Nijinsky and Diaghilev became lovers, and Diaghilev turned heavily involved in guiding Nijinsky's career. The very first performance in Diaghilev's Russian Season brought immediate fame to Nijinsky. In 1909 - 1913 he was the leading soloist of the Russian Seasons in Paris. He danced first parts in Fokin's ballets, such as Carnival, Shekherezada, Petrushka, Narciss, Dafnis and Hloya, etc.
 

In 1912 he performed the major part in his own ballet The Afternoon of a Faun with music by Claude Debussy. In 1913 he staged two other ballets for Diaghilev's company: Games with music by Debussy and The Rite of Spring, with music by Igor Stravinsky. Groundbreaking ballets of Nijinsky, often with emphasized sexual overtones caused controversy among the public and the critics. His revolutionary choreography leaving aside flowing movements of the mainstream ballet laid the basis for the development of ballet of the mid 20th century.
 

In 1913 when Diaghilev's company was touring South America and Diaghilev himself stayed in Paris, Nijinsky fell in love with Romola de Pulszky, a Hungarian ballerina. They were married in Buenos Aires: when the company returned to Europe, Diaghilev fired them both.
 


 

In 1914 Nijinsky founded his own troupe in London, which did not prove a success, though. During World War I Nijinsky was interned in Hungary as a Russian citizen. Diaghilev succeeded in getting him out for a North American tour in 1916, during which he choreographed and danced the leading role in Till Eulenspiegel.
 

From 1917 Nijinsky was under the care of psychiatrists. After a nervous breakdown in 1919 he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to quit the stage. He spent the rest of his life in and out of asylums. He also wrote Nijinsky's Diary then, in which he dwelled upon his work, his disease and his relations with his wife and Diaghilev. He died in a London clinic on April 8, 1950.
 

Nijinsky's diaries were adapted into a film by Paul Cox.

 


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