Vaslav Nijinsky: A legend. A genius. A madman.


When anyone mentions the name Vaslav Nijinsky people react in one of two ways. The first group have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and people in the other group respectfully take off their imaginary hats. You probably belong to the first group. And frankly, there is nothing to be ashamed of. No one knows everything.

Author: Natalie Dongová
Photo: Peter Brenkus


A legend. A genius. A madman. These are attributes that typify Nijinsky to those who are truly in the know regarding the history of dance. As it is in the beginning of every great story, here we can find the roots of inspiration in his early childhood.

Vaslav grew up in an artistic family. His parents – Polish dancers Tomasz Nijinsky and Eleonora Bereda – were members of the Setov Opera Company, a group that travelled with their art around the world. Little Vaslav travelled with them. Travelling throughout ballet world proved useful when nine years old Vaslav got accepted as an exceptional talent into a leading ballet educational institution, the Imperial Ballet School in St.Petersburg (Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet). Historically, this school has educated the largest and most famous personalities in the world of ballet and became the “birthplace” of legendary dancers, famous choreographers and excellent teachers.

His career went to unimaginable heights right after he graduated. Older and more experienced colleagues remained in shock when Vaslav became corypheé (ed.: leader of the ballet corps) immediately after his admission. In addition to this, he starred as most of the main characters in what seemed like no time after admission. This situation was not taken very well by his colleagues who had spent several years in an effort to reach the limelight. But Vaslav didn’t care. His brilliant vision of a world without wars and the destruction of the Earth was increasingly reflected in his definitive dance expression.



I danced frightening things. They were frightened of me and therefore thought that I wanted to kill them. I did not want to kill anyone. I loved everyone, but no one loved me, and therefore I became nervous.” (Vaslav Nijinsky, The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky) Could dance be actually scary? Yes it could, but within the precise understanding of Nijinsky’s speech, it is not frightening at all. His expressiveness rests in the extreme desire to put everything inside the dance. Including efforts to change the world.

Nijinsky himself loved to be referred to as god. But not out of lack of humility. His relationship with God consisted of engagement in the effort to change the world: The war-torn world and constantly increasing human consumerism.

Regarding relationships, even these were not a bed of roses for Nijinsky. His relationship with impresario and founder of the Ballet Russes, legendary Sergei Diaghilev cost him his passion and his job. Nijinsky was Diaghilev’s inspiration, child and lover at the same time. When Vaslav found a wife, the fairy tale vanished. Romola de Pulszky – a young and passionate actress – was the person who had been visiting Nijinsky, and not only as a big fan. After they got married, Vaslav’s schizophrenia erupted in a big way. He spent several years in a penitentiary. Under the weight of this cruel fate, he never danced again in public.

Within one of the most successful Ballet SND productions, quite a special meeting of leading world artists in one place takes place in order to provide a closer look into this story of extraordinary talent, sacrifice and dance revolution. Famous American composer Carl Davis, Brazilian choreographer and director Daniel de Andrade and co-director Patricia Doyle prepared a piece that provides a unique insight into the life of the outstanding personality that Vaslav Nijinsky surely was.

What really made the connection with Nijinsky for me was the discovery of the kind of great power that could be held by an artist and performer. In his madness, or just before he got sick, he had a vision about where our world was rapidly heading. He apperceived all the evil and injustice, the crisis in the economy, the threats to the environment, a world where many were starving and others were very rich, political madness, war, senseless killing” said director and choreographer Daniel de Andrade.




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