Bronislava Nijinska

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Bronislava Nijinska
Bronislava Nijinska.jpg
Native name Бронисла́ва Фоми́нична Нижи́нская
Born Bronislava Fominichna Nizhinskaya
(1891-01-08)January 8, 1891
Minsk, Russian Empire
Died February 21, 1972(1972-02-21) (aged 81)
Pacific Palisades, California
Occupation ballet dancer, choreographer, ballet teacher
Spouse(s) Alexandre Kochetovsky
Nicholas Singaevsky
Children Leo Kochetovsky, Irina Nijinska
Relatives Vaslav Nijinsky (brother)
Awards National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame, 1994

Bronislava Nijinska (Belarusian: Браніслава Ніжынская; Polish: Bronisława Niżyńska; Russian: Бронисла́ва Фоми́нична Нижи́нская, Bronislava Fominichna Nizhinskaya) (January 8, 1891 [O.S. December 27, 1890] — February 21, 1972) was a Polish dancer, choreographer, and teacher.[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 of Papillon in Le Carnival.

Early life[edit]

Nijinska was born in Minsk, the third child of the Polish dancers Tomasz Nijinsky 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. Nijinska’s parents were professional dancers as well. They danced with the Warsaw Wielki Theatre. 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.[3] She was four years old when she made her theatrical debut in a Christmas pageant with her brothers in Nizhny Novgorod.[4] 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.[5]

Career[edit]

Nijinska in Petrouchka, Ballets Russes, 1913

In 1908, Nijinska joined the Imperial Ballet (Also formerly known as the Mariinsky Ballet and Kirov Ballet) following in her brother's footsteps.[6] 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.[7]

It is argued that Nijinska's brother Vaslav had the greatest influence on Nijinska. In Nijinska’s memoir, she speaks of the overwhelming curiosity Vaslav possessed from a young age. Historical references often note his low performance in school; Nijinska attributes this to Vaslav’s impatience and interest in taking risk. 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.[8] It was during this tour that Nijinsky controversially married Ramola de Pulsky. It is questionable if this would have happened had Bronislava been on tour, according to Bronislava’s memoirs. Nijinska explains how Vaslav was very reserved, and had few close colleagues and collaborators in the dance world beside herself.

Nijinska left the Ballet Russes to follow her brother after he was dismissed from the company for his relationship with Ramona de Pulsky. Bronislava and Vaslav started a short lived company in London. Some attribute the downfall of the company to Vaslav’s erratic emotional tendencies. In 1919, she opened a school in Kiev called L'Ecole de Mouvement (School of Movement). 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.[9]

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.[10] Nijinska reworked parts of Diaghilev's The Sleeping Princess, turning the unpopular ballet into a salvageable one act ballet, entitled Aurora's Wedding.[11]

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.[12] In this piece, Nijinska has the women wear point shoes to elongate their silhouettes. The sound of point shoes jabbing the ground gives power to the dancing. The women’s movement is very frontal and largely in unison; for part of the dance, they are connected by long braids from the bride’s hair. The whole piece has an overwhelming sense of control and conform.

In 1924, Nijinska created Les Biches and Le Train Bleu (ballet). Les Biches depicts a house party where the original role of the hostess was played by Nijinska herself. The hostess character is an older woman who grapples with aging and the loss of youthful freedoms. The piece also includes two lesbian characters who spend the evening flirting with each other despite the suitable men in the room. 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.[13]

1925 marked Nijinska's departure from Ballet Russes. She continued choreographing in a freelance capacity, working for ballet companies in Europe, South America, and the United States.[14]

In 1926, she created Etude-Bach, her first abstract ballet. Other popular ballets she created include La Valse (1931 for Ida Rubinstein Ballet) and Chopin Concerto (1937 for the Polish ballet).

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.[15]

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.[16] In 1938, she moved to Los Angeles, where she opened a school, and she continued to work as a guest choreographer into the early 1960s. Her daughter Irina was her rehearsal assistant, and continued to stage her ballets after her death.

Nijinska was asked by Frederick Ashton to stage Les Biches for 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.[17]

She was the subject of an album The Nijinska Chamber by Kate Westbrook.[18] and Mike Westbrook.

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

Nijinska trained and choreographed a trio that included the Tallchief sisters and Jeanne Adele Sook. They performed in the Civic Light Operas in Los Angeles and San Francisco under the direction of Edwin Lester. In a publicity shot for the show, Nijinska and the photographer wouldn't allow Maria Tallchief in the photo, "because her toe shoes were too dirty."

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

Bronislava Nijinska died from a heart attack on February 21, 1972 in the Pacific Palisades, California.[19]

Irina Nijinska, Bronislava’s only daughter, published her early memoirs in 1981. This memoir describes in detail her early years in the Diaglhiev era of Russian ballet.

Personal life[edit]

Nijinska married twice. Her first husband was Alexandre Kochetovsky, a fellow Ballet Russes dancer by whom she had two children: their son, Leo Kochetovsky, was killed in a car accident and their daughter, Irina Nijinska, became a ballet dancer in her own right. Alexandre died of a heart attack in Houston, Texas at the age of 63. 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.[20]

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

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

External links[edit]