Biography of Famous Russian Dancer Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky
About the famous Russian dancer Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky, his history and biography.
Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky (1890-1950). Although Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky had a comparatively short dance career--barely 10 years--he has the reputation of being the greatest male dancer in history.
Born in Kiev, Russia, on February 28, 1890, Vaslav was the 2nd son of Fomich and Eleanora Nijinsky, Polish ballet dancers who were on tour in Russia at the time of his birth.
Nijinsky's mother had great aspirations for her son to be a dancer and she tried to enroll him at the Imperial Theater School when he was 7 years old. He was rejected because of his age but he auditioned when he reached 10 and was chosen along with 5 others from 150 applicants.
Nijinsky was a poor student scholastically but excelled in all of his dancing classes, particularly mime. In 1906, 2 years prior to his graduation from the Imperial Theater School, an unprecedented offer was made to accept him as a regular member of the Imperial Ballet. However, he turned the offer down, choosing to remain a student until his graduation at the age of 17, when he would automatically become a member.
There were few opportunities at this time for male dancers to exhibit their versatility. Nijinsky was given an occasional solo but performed mainly as a partner for the ballerinas. He took several leaves of absence from the Imperial Ballet to perform with the seasonal ballet and opera company of Serge Diaghilev, the great impresario. Michel Fokine, a brilliant young choreographer, and Anna Pavlova, the distinguished ballerina, were 2 of the company's prominent members. Nijinsky was now given the opportunity to perform roles that would demonstrate his artistic genius.
Diaghilev eventually formed a permanent company that performed the year round and he offered Nijinsky a position as his leading male dancer. The timing was perfect, as Nijinsky's disagreement with the Maryinsky Theater director over a costume he was to wear resulted in his angry resignation. Nijinsky then accepted Diaghilev's offer with great enthusiasm and began touring with the company in 1911--he would never again return to his native Russia.
Nijinsky's dynamic ability to leap effortlessly and appear to pause in midair continuously left his audiences gasping in amazement. He was a marvelous actor as well as a brilliant dancer. His favorite role was in the ballet Petrouchka, the story of an emotional and loving puppet who was incapable of expressing his feelings--oddly enough, very much like Nijinsky himself. When Sarah Bernhardt, the well-known actress, saw him perform Petrouchka, she said: "I am afraid, I am afraid, for I am watching the greatest actor in the world."
Nijinsky began choreographing new works for Diaghilev's company. His ballets L'Apresmidi d' un faune and Le Sacre du printemps were revolutionary for their time and were received with bitter controversy by both the press and the audiences.
The end of Nijinsky's career came in 1917 after a dance tour of South America. During that final tour, Nijinsky suffered from acute paranoia and hired a bodyguard to protect him from his "enemies." At the completion of the tour, Nijinsky and his wife, Romola, a dancer whom he had married in 1913, settled in Switzerland. Nijinsky's mental state caused great concern. Severe disagreements with Diaghilev had totally severed their personal relationship, and his choreographic efforts had taxed his emotional stability. Lethargic, Nijinsky withdrew into himself. There were long periods of silence, and when he communicated with his wife, he spoke about God and living a simple peasant life of which dancing was no longer a part. His wife was completely bewildered by his behavior and called in a series of specialists for a diagnosis. She was told that his condition was hopeless, and in 1918 Nijinsky was forcibly removed to an asylum where he remained until his death in 1950.
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