Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vaslav Nijinsky –The last jump

Vaslav Nijinsky was born on March 12th 1890 in Kiev, Ukraine. He is known for his artistic genius and his flawless technique and stage presence –but also for his turbulent personal life and his mental illness that forced him to cut early his dancing course.
As a choreographer he created some of the most innovative and controversial pieces of his time and brought ballet into modernism. As a dancer he had the exceptional ability to transform himself into every role he performed. In his technique, what stood out were his graceful, floating leaps that defeated gravity. When asked about his secret, his answer was: 'You just have to go up and pause there a little.'
Eugène Druet. Photograph of Nijinsky in the Danse Siamoise in Les Orientales posed outside in Paris, 1910. Roger Pryor Dodge Collection, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts - source
Today, on his birth anniversary, we chose to share a lesser known story that occurred later in his life, during his stay at the psychiatric asylum of Munsingen in Switzerland –the story of his last jump.

On June 7th 1939, his wife Romola invited dancer and ballet master of the Paris Opera Ballet Serge Lifar along with a group of journalists and photographers. At that time, Nijinsky was mostly lost in his own mind with seldom communication with his surroundings. The purpose of the visit was to offer him some kind of dancing stimuli with the hope it would stir something inside his mind.
During the visit, Lifar danced in front of Nijinsky excerpts of some of his most famous roles –The Fawn and the Spectre de la Rose. Nijinsky observed him unexpressed at first, he gradually started responding to Lifar’s dancing and then suddenly he performed a spectacular vertical jump –floating in the air for a while and then landing lightly, a jump worthy of his old fame…
The moment was captured by photographer Jean Manzon and the photos were featured in Paris Match and LIFE Magazine.

What we love about this story is that it shows how dance can leave its traces in the body and mind of a dancer and becomes part of their identity for life...

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