|copyright (c) 2010, Sharon Edmunds|
Nijinksy: The Golden Slave, Acrylic/MM on Canvas, 20" x 16"
Vaslav Nijinsky: in costume as the Golden Slave, from the ballet 'Scheherazade'. He performed this Classical Ballet, choreographed by Fokine, with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1911. Parisians called him "The God of Dance". The West had never seen a dancer like him. This was at a time when Ballet was all about the Ballerina.
Nijinsky was born in Kiev, in 1889. His parents were both dancers from Poland, of Tatar decent. His father left the family when Nijinsky was eight years old. When he was nine, his mother moved to Saint-Petersburg and he started to study at the famous Imperial Theatrical School. He was a shy, introverted child, considered strange looking and exotic by both classmates and teachers. Academically, he was not a good student. He was taunted and called names. However, it was soon understood that he was an incredibly gifted dancer. His performances as a student were reviewed by the press. He graduated from school at the age of eighteen and immediately became a dancer with the Imperial Ballet - later named the Kirov Ballet and today, renamed the Mariinsky Ballet. The Prima Ballerina of the Imperial Ballet, Mathilda Kschessinska, knew that he was not only a great dancer, but also an amazing actor and would request Nijinsky as her partner. At the age of twenty, he met Diaghilev. The rest is history.
A history of celebratory highs and overwhelming lows. As a dancer, Nijinsky is a legend. As a choreographer, he was not well received in his lifetime. He was a visionary. Now it is understood that his work led the way towards the beginnings of Modern Dance. By the age of 29, his career was over. He would leave a diary of four notebooks, written by him in the six weeks prior to his being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. It would take many years for this diary to be published* in it's original form, including all four notebooks. It is his last heartbreaking statement to the world.
(*The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky (Unexpurgated Edition) Translated From The Russian by Kyril Fitzlyon, Edited By Joan Acocella, First Published in the United States (c) 1999 by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.)