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Jeff Spencer Modernist Wire Sculpture 06

Nijinsky Dance Compression -- Vaslav Nijinsky (Вацлав Фомич Нижинский) was born March 12, 1890 and lived until April 8, 1950. He was a Russian-Polish ballet dancer and choreographer, possibly the most gifted dancer in history, who was renowned for his virtuosity and intensity. He could perform en pointe, a rare skill among male dancers at the time and his airborne ability which appeared to defy gravity was legendary. Bronislava Nijinska, the famous choreographer, happened to be his sister.

He was born in Kiev, Ukraine, the son of ethnic Poles; his parents were both dancers. Nijinsky was christened in Warsaw, and considered himself Polish despite difficulties in properly speaking the language as a result of his childhood in Russia's interior where his parents worked.

In 1900 Nijinsky joined the Imperial Ballet School, where he studied under Enrico Cecchetti, Nikolai Legat, and Pavel Gerdt. In 1910, the company's Prima ballerina assoluta Mathilde Kschessinska selected Nijinsky to dance in a revival of Marius Petipa's Le Talisman, during which Nijinsky created a sensation in the role of the Wind God Vayou.

A turning point for Nijinsky was his meeting Sergei Diaghilev, a celebrated and highly innovative producer of ballet and opera as well as art exhibitions. Nijinsky and Diaghilev became lovers for a time and Diaghilev was heavily involved in directing and managing Nijinsky's career. In 1909 Diaghilev took a company of Russian opera and ballet stars to Paris featuring Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova. The season of colorful Russian ballets and operas was a great success. It led Diaghilev to create his famous company Les Ballets Russes with choreographer Michel Fokine and designer Léon Bakst. The Paris seasons of the Ballets Russes were an artistic and social sensation; setting trends in art, dance, music and fashion for the next decade.

Nijinsky's unique talent showed in Fokine's pieces such as Le Pavillon d'Armide (music by Nikolai Tcherepnin), Cleopatra (music by Anton Arensky and other Russian composers) and a divertissement La Fète. His expressive execution of a pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty (Tchaikovsky) was a tremendous success; in 1910 he performed in Giselle, and Fokine's ballets Carnaval and Scheherazade (based on the orchestral suite by Rimsky-Korsakov). His partnership with Tamara Karsavina, also of the Mariinsky Theatre, was legendary, and they have been called the "most exemplary artists of the time".

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