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  1. At the National Ballet: the tale of Vaslav Nijinsky, ‘god of the dance’
  3. Was Nijinsky's Diary the Work of a Madman or a Genius?
  4. Carl Davis: Ballet “Nijinsky – God of the Dance” as a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk

So by the time we are in Act Three where the lives of Nijinsky and Diaghilev are gone apart.

At the National Ballet: the tale of Vaslav Nijinsky, ‘god of the dance’

By the marriage there is also the war. There is a big scene concerned with that. In times when Nijinsky was rational he was a kind of naive pacifist. At that moment we have just me speaking in American English smile. These important excerpts show his pacifist images. Since the story is from a period of great rise of movies we bring also some film sequences from war and the accident of Wright brothers as well.

There are some very, very terrific effects using film. This all is very important, but you are a composer. So, perhaps we should turn to the music…. In the music there are various variations on the Chopin Prelude depending on how we need it to be. There are perhaps twenty different ways of these variations. Then we have the repertoire of Ballet Rousse. Diaghilev is crowned — the tsar of ballet! For instance, the major theme from Scheherazade; we use a lot of the first movement from Scheherazade was never used for ballet.

The orchestra played first few bars and then it jumped to the second movement.

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The first movement was never choreographed by Ballet Rousse. In contrast, in my music there is a lot of first movement because it has an epic quality and I thought the story could take it on. So going in and out of these quoted pieces they sometimes help me to tell the story like leitmotifs.

On the other hand there is a historical period of early 20 th century. I thought this should be expressed by another level which is popular music. At first we have ragtime because this is a great period of this music, then we have a certain kind of bal-musette with the ladies of Paris, in fact a little waltz, we have a tango, again extremely popular for this period.

Just tango becomes the love music of Nijinsky and Diaghilev, they also dance it. I wanted to get what rooted not just on the ballet stage but also in life, bit rougher, popular, of that time. So our ballet encompasses a really big story, it is very ambitious what we are doing musically here. Therefore I want to ask, do you have any system how to put together so much different music? Yes, I do. The first thing that happens when you create the production like this is that you have synopsis of the story.

First of all, the story is available for us.

This all existed, it happened, there are many books, biographies concerning it. At the beginning it is necessary to put all different elements together to say what the story is. Every incident on the stage is based on what we discovered through our research. Of course, we do play but not for the purpose of the performance of The Sacre, we use this music to tell another kind of story, the personal story.

So we started thinking where we are going to, what interests us about. During our research we collected documents up to the ceiling, rooms and rooms of books and photographs. It could have been because by the time from to or there could be filmed everything. There are lot of photographs, still photographs, paintings of the sets and the costumes; this all exists but no film. And then comes the property of the choreographer. Of course, there were various ways how can the story be presented through comedy.

There were obviously discussions with him, but in fact, Daniel put it together making it very personal to himself. So the story is broken down to the components. Thus, the people first come in, they are dancing the tango because it is a heyday of tango, Nijinsky is going to come in and meet Diaghilev etc… So how long should be taken to Nijinsky comes in?

So, now I know that. So I write a nice set of tango with sexy atmosphere expressing that something is going to happen.


Then he comes in and they meet etc. After this scene the party continues again with the dance in tango style. I ask the same question, how long? Ok, maybe two minutes for the whole dance scene. Based on that the whole ballet is mapped out in time like a film. However, the film would last long, about two hours.


Now the whole piece has the shape — three acts and inside these acts certain number of scenes. We also know well the time proportion of the whole piece. So, having a piece of paper which looks like a film script I can work out with my corve. When the time exceeds three minutes you are already in a symphonic situation.

You need more themes and to work with their motifs, this calls the development. Ballet is a never-replay; it could not be made up from short sequences. Sometimes they can be linked, joined, so they seem to be longer pieces but anyway they must be shaped to dramatically do the job providing right mood and right character and this is always subjective. But you must always think with front of the theatre, what the spectators see. Thank you! Originally drawn to Nijinsky by photos of the ballet dancer in costume, Curlee Trains , , etc.

Was Nijinsky's Diary the Work of a Madman or a Genius?

Quotations from contemporaries and occasionally the dancer himself breathe further life into the narrative. The photographs and illustrations add interest and points of engagement in what is an otherwise tragic tale of a brooding artist. There was a problem adding your email address. Please try again. Be the first to discover new talent! Each week, our editors select the one author and one book they believe to be most worthy of your attention and highlight them in our Pro Connect email alert.

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Carl Davis: Ballet “Nijinsky – God of the Dance” as a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk

Email Newsletter. Nijinsky now was "an experimental artist. He needed roles that would extend his gifts, and above all, he needed to choreograph. For these things he did need the Ballets Russes, which at that time was the only forward-thinking ballet company in the world. Not only had Nijinsky previously left the Imperial ballet on doubtful terms, but he had not been granted exemption from compulsory military service in Russia, something that was normally given to its dancers. He could find only two offers, one a position with the Paris Opera , which would not start for more than a year; the other to take a ballet company to London for eight weeks to perform as part of a mixed bill at the Palace Theatre.

Anna Pavlova sent him a caustic telegram, reminding him that he had disapproved some years before when she had appeared there in vaudeville. Bronia was still in St Petersburg following the birth of her child, and Nijinsky asked her to be part of his new company. She was glad to do so, being concerned at how well he could cope without his customary supporters. When she arrived, there was friction between her and Romola: Bronia was critical that the new central figure in her brother's life showed so little organisational ability; Romola resented the closeness between brother and sister both in their shared language and in ability to work together in dance.

The final company had only three experienced dancers: Nijinsky and Bronia plus her husband. Scenery was late, Fokine refused to allow the use of his ballets, there was inadequate time to rehearse, and Nijinsky became "more and more nervous and distraught". The audience divided between those who had never seen ballet, who objected to the delays necessary for scene changes, and those who had seen Nijinsky before, who generally felt something was lacking "He no longer danced like a god" [46].

On another night, when the orchestra played music during the scene change so as to calm the audience, Nijinsky, having expressly banned this, flew into a rage and was discovered half dressed and screaming in his dressing room. He had to be calmed down enough to perform.

He jumped on a stagehand who had flirted with Romola "I had never seen Vaslav like that" [47]. A new program was to be performed for the third week, but a packed house had to be told that Nijinsky was ill with a high temperature and could not perform. He missed three days, and the management had had enough. The show was cancelled, and Nijinsky was left with a considerable financial loss. Newspapers reported a nervous breakdown. Romola was pregnant, so the couple returned to Budapest , Austro-Hungary, to his mother-in-law Emilia Markus' house.

Their daughter Kyra was born on 19 June He was confined to house arrest in Budapest and could not leave the country. The war made problems for the Ballets Russes too; the company had difficulty recruiting dancers and Fokine returned to Russia. Diaghilev started negotiations in October for Nijinsky to work again for the company, but could not obtain release of the dancer until The complex negotiations included a prisoner exchange with the United States, and agreement that Nijinsky would dance and choreograph for the Ballets Russes' tour.

Nijinsky arrived in New York on 4 April The tour had already started in January with a number of problems: Faun was considered too sexually explicit and had to be amended; Scheherazade , including an orgy between blacks and whites, did not appeal to Americans; and ballet aficionados were calling for Nijinsky. Romola took over negotiations, demanding that Diaghilev pay Nijinsky for the years he had been unpaid by the Ballets Russes before he would dance in New York.