- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

NEW YORK
It has been more than 80 years since Vaslav Nijinsky has danced in public, but a major exhibition of memorabilia illustrating the career of the greatest male ballet dancer of the 20th century attests to the evergreen fascination of the Nijinsky legend.
The show at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, and the important repositories of Nijinsky material, include 250 artifacts ranging from the dancer-choreographer's famous diaries and some of his costumes to photographs, posters, set and costume designs, and Nijinsky's own abstract paintings. It can be seen through May 3.
Born in Ukraine of Polish parents who were both ballet dancers, Nijinsky trained at the Imperial School of Dancing in St. Petersburg and joined the Mariinsky Theater as a soloist in 1907. In 1909, he was invited by dance impresario Sergey Diaghilev to be principal dancer in the new Ballets Russes, a traveling company of Russian dancers.
When the Ballets Russes made its Paris debut that same year with Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova, the company took the city by storm and made a world reputation for itself.
The dancer's mental problems, later diagnosed as schizophrenia, began to interfere with his performance at about the time of a tour of 56 American cities in 1916 and 1917.
He ended his career in Uruguay in 1919 at age 29 while touring with the Ballets Russes and spent the next 30 years in and out of sanitariums. He died in 1950.
He began the diaries the most famous manuscripts in dance history and the highlight of the exhibition in 1919 and the three notebooks handwritten in Russian and illustrated with sketches reflect symptoms of mental imbalance.
His wife published an edited edition in 1936 and the full text was published in English in 1999, about the time they were purchased from the family by the New York Public Library.
Tamara Nijinsky, the surviving of the dancer's two daughters with dancer Romola de Pulszky, came to New York for the opening of the exhibition, for which she was a consultant, from her home in Phoenix.
She particularly admired the display of costumes loaned for the first time by the Kirov Ballet and the Museum of Theater and Music of St. Petersburg as part of the city's 300th birthday celebration.
The exhibition also includes costume designs for Nijinsky, rendered in watercolor, by Leon Bakst and Alexander Benois, and photographs of him posed or dancing in these costumes by Baron Adolf de Meyer, Eugen Druet, Karl Struss and L. Roosen.
All four of the ballets Nijinski choreographed for the Ballets Russes "L'Apres-midi d'un Faune," "Jeux" (a contemporary ballet about tennis), "The Rite of Spring" and "Tyl Eulenspiegel" are represented in the photographic collection.
The "L'Apres-midi d'un Faune" photos show Nijinsky in his spotted faun costume, and a film of the faun ballet with Rudolf Nureyev in the title role can be seen in a small video theater at the rear of the exhibition along with a film of Nureyev performing.
No film footage of Nijinsky in performance is known to exist.
Other photographic highlights include pictures of Nijinsky in two of the exotic Persian-Indian ballets for which Ballet Russes was famous "Scheherazade" and "Orientales."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide