Bronislava Nijinska

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Bronislava Nijinska.

Bronislava Nijinska (Polish: Bronisława Niżyńska; Russian: Бронисла́ва Фоми́нична Нижи́нская, Bronislava Fominichna Nizhinskaya) (January 8, 1891 [O.S. December 27, 1890] — February 21, 1972) was a Russian dancer, choreographer, and teacher of Polish descent.[1] Nijinska played a leading role in the pioneering movement that turned against 19th-century Classicism, which paved the way for neoclassical works to come.[2] A breakthrough came in 1910, when she created her first solo, the role Papillon in Le Carnival. Bronislava Nijinska died from a heart attack on February 21, 1972 in the Pacific Palisades, California.[3]

Early life[edit]

Nijinska was born in Minsk, the third child of the Polish dancers Tomasz Nijinska and Eleonora Nijinska (maiden name Bereda). She was the younger sister of the renowned dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (Wacław Niżyński). Early on in life Nijinska learned folk dances at home. Her parents taught her Polish, Hungarian, Italian, and Russian folk dances. Additionally her father taught her some acrobatics which she later incorporated into some of her choreographic works.[4] She was four years old when she made her theatrical debut in a Christmas pageant with her brothers in Nizhny Novgorod.[5] Nijinska trained with Enrico Cecchetti before joining the Imperial Ballet School in 1900. She was a student there until 1908 and was taught by Nicolai Legat and Mikhail Fokine.[6]

Career[edit]

In 1908 Nijinska joined the Imperial Ballet following in her brother's footsteps.[7] In her first year she performed Fokine's Les Sylphides, where she directly experienced Fokine's choreographic vision. Both she and Nijinsky left Russia in 1909 to join Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.[8]

It is argued that Nijinska's brother, Valslav, had the greatest influence on Nijinska. When Nijinsky created L'Après-midi d'un Faune (Afternoon of a Faun) he used Nijinska to rehearse it in secret. She was to be the original "Chosen One" in Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring) but due to pregnancy Nijinska did not make that debut.[9]

Nijinska left the Ballet Russes and in 1919 she opened a school in Kiev called L'Ecole de Mouvement. Her training philosophy focused on preparing dancers to work with choreographers such as her brother. She asked for flowing movement, free use of the torso, and a quickness in linking steps.[10]

In 1921 Nijinska was asked to return to Ballet Russes, but this time as a choreographer. This request by Diaghilev came after he had learned that Nijinska had staged Petipa's Swan Lake in Kiev, Ukraine in 1919.[11] Nijinska reworked parts of Diaghilev's The Sleeping Princess, turning the unpopular ballet into a salvageable one act ballet entitled Aurora's Wedding.[12]

In 1923 Nijinska created Les Noces, a ballet that depicts Russian peasant wedding rituals. Strains of feminism can be seen throughout the work as Les Noces highlights the obligation of marriage and a bride who appears devoid of emotion.[13] The following year, in 1924, Nijinska created Les Biches and Le Train Bleu. Les Biches depicts a house party where the original role of the hostess was played by Nijinska herself. The piece is filled with social satire and ambiguous sexuality yet the ballet was well received by the Parisian audience. Le Train Bleu's plot revolves around the train's destination: a fashionable southern resort and the activities offered there. The costumes for Le Train Bleu were designed by Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel while the music was by Darius Milhaud.[14]

1925 marked Nijinska's departure from Ballet Russes. She continued choreographing in a free-lance capacity, working for ballet companies in Europe, South America and the United States.[15] She briefly directed her own company, the Théâtre de la Danse, based in Paris from 1932 until 1934.

Perhaps her most lasting contribution to both French music and European ballet was her choreography of Ravel's Boléro in 1928, which she created while choreographing for Ida Rubinstein's company.[16] In 1934 Nijinska was asked to the United States, Hollywood specifically, to choreograph the dances (to Felix Mendelssohn's music) for Max Reinhardt's 1935 film version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.[17]

Nijinska was asked by Frederick Ashton to stage Les Biches on the Royal Ballet in 1964. Ashton had danced in Nijinska's works when he was a young student and wished to aid in reviving them. Two years later Ashton asked her to return and stage Les Noces on his company.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Nijinska married twice. Her first husband was Alexandre Kochetovsky, a fellow Ballet Russes dancer by whom she had two children. Her son, Leo Kochetovsky, was killed in a car accident and her daughter, Irina Nijinska, was a ballet dancer in her own right. Nijinska's second husband was Nicholas Singaevsky, who died in 1968. Upon his passing Irina took care of her mother and subsequently carried on her work including editing and publishing Nijinska's memoirs in 1972.[19]

The true love of her life, but to whom she was never married, was the Russian bass singer Feodor Chaliapin.

She was the subject of an album The Nijinska Chamber by Kate Westbrook[20] and Mike Westbrook.

Her students included the prima ballerinas Maria Tallchief and Marjorie Tallchief as well as the dancer Cyd Charisse.

Nijinska was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 1994.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Carnes, Mark C. (2003). "Bronislava Nijinska". Invisible Giants: Fifty Americans Who Shaped the Nation But Missed the History Books. Oxford University Press. pp. 214–220. ISBN 978-0-19-516883-9.
  2. ^ Greskovic, Robert. Ballet 101: A complete guide to learning and loving the ballet. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1998.
  3. ^ Nižinska, Bronislava. Bronislava Nijinska: Early Memoirs. Duke University Press, 1992.
  4. ^ Makaryk, Irena Rima, and Virlana Tkacz, eds. Modernism in Kiev: Kyiv/Kyïv/Kiev/Kijów/Ḳieṿ: Jubilant Experimentation. University of Toronto Press, 2010.
  5. ^ Nižinska, Bronislava. Bronislava Nijinska: Early Memoirs. Duke University Press, 1992.
  6. ^ Sanders, Lorna. "Les Noces (Svadebka/The Wedding)." The Dancing Times. Oct. 2004: 48-53. Print.
  7. ^ Sanders, Lorna. "Les Noces (Svadebka/The Wedding)." The Dancing Times. Oct. 2004: 48-53. Print.
  8. ^ Garafola, Lynn. Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Da Capo Press, 2009.
  9. ^ Sanders, Lorna. "Les Noces (Svadebka/The Wedding)." The Dancing Times. Oct. 2004: 48-53. Print.
  10. ^ Sanders, Lorna. "Les Noces (Svadebka/The Wedding)." The Dancing Times. Oct. 2004: 48-53. Print.
  11. ^ Garafola, Lynn. Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Da Capo Press, 2009.
  12. ^ Greskovic, Robert. Ballet 101: A complete guide to learning and loving the ballet. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1998.
  13. ^ Greskovic, Robert. Ballet 101: A complete guide to learning and loving the ballet. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1998.
  14. ^ Greskovic, Robert. Ballet 101: A complete guide to learning and loving the ballet. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1998.
  15. ^ Nižinska, Bronislava. Bronislava Nijinska: Early Memoirs. Duke University Press, 1992.
  16. ^ Woolf, Vicki. Dancing in the Vortex: The Story of Ida Rubinstein. Vol. 20. Psychology Press, 2000.
  17. ^ Nižinska, Bronislava. Bronislava Nijinska: Early Memoirs. Duke University Press, 1992.
  18. ^ Bland, Alexander, and Ninette de Valois. The Royal Ballet: the first 50 years. Threshold Books, 1981.
  19. ^ Nižinska, Bronislava. Bronislava Nijinska: Early Memoirs. Duke University Press, 1992.
  20. ^ http://www.westbrookjazz.co.uk/katewestbrook/nijinskacd.shtml

External links[edit]

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