Irina Nijinska

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Irina Nijinska

Irina Nijinska (20 November 1913 - 2 July 1991) was a Russian-Polish ballet dancer who performed with the company of Ida Rubenstein; in the Théatre de la Danse Nijinska; the Ballets Russes of Col. de Basil; the Polish Ballet, and other troupes. She spent much of her later life promoting the work of her mother, Bronislava Nijinska, the dancer and choreographer.[1][2]

Irina Nijinska was born in St Petersburg, the daughter of Nijinska and dancer Alexander Kotchetovsky. Her uncle was the world famous dancer Vaslav Nijinsky; and her grandparents were dancers Thomas Nijinsky and Eleanora Bereda. After her brother Leo was born in Kiev in 1919, her parents separated. Her mother took her two children west in 1921, eventually settling in France. She trained as a dancer in Paris, studying with Vera Trefilova and Eugene Lapitsky, and beginning pointe work with her grandmother.[3] Irina made her debut with Olga Spessivtzeva's troupe in 1930. She went on to dance in many of the dance troupes with which her mother was associated, performing under the stage name Irina Istomina. Among other parts, she performed her mother's old role as the Street Dancer in Petrouchka. Like her relatives, she became known for the height of her jumps. In 1935 she was forced to interrupt her dancing career after suffering injuries in a car accident that killed her brother, Leo. During her convalescence, Irina first became an assistant to her mother,[1], helping to stage the ballet Les Noces for Col. de Basil's Ballets Russes, in New York in 1936; and the ballet Le Baiser de la Fée in Buenos Aires. Much later, she helped her mother revive "Les Biches" for the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome in 1969; and for the Teatro Comunale in Florence in 1970.

Mother and daughter moved to Los Angeles in 1940, where both began teaching.[4][5] She taught at Nijinska's Hollywood Dance Studio from 1941-1950.

Following her mother's death in 1972, Irina co-edited and co-translated the first part of Bronislava's autobiography,, Early Memoirs, with Jean Rawlinson.[6] [7]She made the publishing arrangements and it appeared in 1981,[1] being named a Notable Book of 1981 by the American Library Association. She also continued working with the revivals of Bronislava's original choreographies, produced at different ballet-company venues.[8] By her own estimate, between 1972 and 1991 Irina Nijinska produced 26 stagings for 20 different ballet companies in Europe, America, and Asia.[9] Oakland Ballet's production of "Les Noces" in 1981 saw the first American performances of Nijinska's ballet since 1936.[10] Irina also staged Les Biches for Oakland Ballet in 1982; and assisted Frank W.D. Ries, a Jean Cocteau scholar, in the reconstruction of Le Train Bleu in Oakland, in 1989.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18] She developed close ties with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, in New York, where she staged "Les Biches" in 1983,[19] [20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]and in 1989 staged a full evening of works by Bronislava Nijinska including "Les Biches," "Les Noces," and "Rondo Capriccioso,"[29][30] [31][32][33][34][35][36]the latter reconstructed with the assistance of Rosella Hightower. Irina's staging of "Les Noces" for the Feld Ballet, in 1985, was notable for the design of a new set by Ming Cho Lee.[37][38][39] [40][41][42]In 1990, Irina revived the Bride's Variation from "Le Baiser de la Fée" for a conference sponsored by the Dance Critics Association. That performance featured a young Jennie Somogyi, later a principal dancer with New York City Ballet.

Irina Nijinska was also instrumental in promoting her mother's works through her involvement in two historic museum exhibitions. "Bronislava Nijinska: a Dancer's Legacy," was curated by Nancy Van Norman Baer and first seen at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, from March to July of1986, then at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, from September 1986 to January 1987. "La Nijinska: Choreographer, Dancer, Teacher" was curated by Madeleine Nichols and exhibited at the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library, from December 1990 through April 1991, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Bronislava Nijinska's birth.

In 1946 Irina had married Gibbs S. Raetz; they had two children, Natalie and George. In 1991 at age 77, Irina Nijinska died in a hospital room in Inglewood after suffering a stroke on May 29, in Amsterdam.[43][44][45][46] [47][48][49][50]Family members, friends, and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to her at a symposium at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in November 1991.

List of Stagings[edit]

"Les Biches:" Dusseldorf ballet, 1972; Zurich Ballet, 1975; Théâtre Français de Nancy, 1981; Oakland Ballet, 1982; Dance Theatre of Harlem, 1983; Dutch National Ballet, 1983; Teatro dell'Opera in Rome, 1985; Missouri Concert Ballet, 1989[51][52]; Tulsa Ballet, 1990; Paris Opéra Ballet, 1991[53][54]

"Les Noces:" Stuttgart Ballet, 1974; Paris Opéra Ballet, 1976; Oakland Ballet, 1981; Dance Corps at the State University of New York at Purchase, 1984[55][56][57][58][59][60]; Feld Ballet, 1985; Pittsburgh Ballet, 1985[61]; Compañía Nacional de Danza, Mexico, 1987; Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, 1987;[62] Vienna State Opera Ballet, 1988; Washington Ballet, 1988; Joffrey Ballet, 1989[63][64][65][66][67]; Dance Theatre of Harlem, 1989; National Institute for the Arts, Taipei, 1991; Dutch National Ballet, 1991.

"Le Train Bleu:" Oakland Ballet, 1989

"Rondo Capriccioso;" Dance Theatre of Harlem, 1989

Bride's Variation from "Le Baiser de la Fée": Dance Critics Association, 1990


  1. ^ a b c W. J. Weatherby, 'Defender of the dance', The Guardian, 6 July 1991
  2. ^ Garafola, Lynn (June 1989). "The Exemplary Daughterhood of Irina Nijinska". Dance Magazine: 43–44.
  3. ^ Johnson, Robert (1992). "Irina Nijinska (1913-1991)". Ballet Review. 19 (Spring 1992): 28–35.
  4. ^ Anderson (1991).
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times obituary.
  6. ^ Tobias, Tobi (November 10, 1981). "Dancebooks". The Soho News.
  7. ^ Brubach, Holly (September 20, 1981). "A Life in Dance". The New York Times.
  8. ^ See article Bronislava Nijinska, ∮∮ 4.8.4, 5.2, & 7.3.
  9. ^ Huber, Andrea Grodsky (Spring 1992). "A Conversation with Irina Nijinska". Ballet Review. 19: 36–60.
  10. ^ Kriegsman, Alan (May 23, 1982). "The Wonder of Nijinska's 'Noces'". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ Ulrich, Alan (October 27, 1990). "Oakland Ballet makes history with Nijinska". San Francisco Examiner.
  12. ^ Ross, Janice (November 12, 1989). "This 'Train' Is Bound for Glory". The Oakland Tribune.
  13. ^ Morris, Gay (March 4, 1990). "'Le Train Bleu' Makes a Brief Stopover". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Tucker, Marilyn (November 13, 1989). "Oakland's Dazzling 'Train Bleu'". San Francisco Chronicle.
  15. ^ Barnes, Clive (March 12, 1990). "Beach-bound 'Train' runs out of steam". New York Post.
  16. ^ Jowitt, Deborah (March 21, 1990). "Dive In". The Village Voice.
  17. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (March 12, 1990). "Oakland Troupe Performs Cocteau's 'Train Bleu'". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Tobias, Tobi (March 26, 1990). "Life Studies". New York: 89.
  19. ^ Dunning, Jennifer (January 28, 1983). "Harlem Dancers and Diaghilev Days". The New York Times.
  20. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (January 29, 1983). "Ballet: Nijinska 'Biches,' by the Harlem Dancers". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Barnes, Clive (January 28, 1983). "Harlem Dance: A troupe with taste". New York Post.
  22. ^ Van Camp, Julie (March 3, 1983). "Dance Theater of Harlem revives Nijinska work". The Washington Times.
  23. ^ Kriegsman, Alan M. (March 2, 1983). "House Party: The Dance Theatre of Harlem & 'Les Biches'". The Washington Post.
  24. ^ Croce, Arlene (March 21, 1983). "Dancing: Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer". The New Yorker: 109–112.
  25. ^ Mazo, Joseph H. (January 31, 1983). "Dance: 'Les Biches'". Women's Wear Daily.
  26. ^ Aloff, Mindy (March 26, 1983). "Dance". The Nation: 375.
  27. ^ Mazo, Joseph H. (January 28, 1983). "Harlem's 'Les Biches' rich in wit and style". The Record.
  28. ^ Tobias, Tobi (February 21, 1983). "Salad Days". New York: 80–81.
  29. ^ Acocella, Joan (June 1989). "Reincarnation". Connoisseur: 36.
  30. ^ Kriegsman, Alan M. (March 15, 1990). "DTH, on the Right Foot". The Washington Post.
  31. ^ Acocella, Joan (July 19, 1989). "Blood Wedding". 7 Days.
  32. ^ Jowitt, Deborah (July 18, 1989). "Pirate Stew". The Village Voice.
  33. ^ Schulman, Jennie (July 21, 1989). "Dance Diary". Backstage.
  34. ^ Tobias, Tobi (July 17, 1989). "Feathers". New York: 53.
  35. ^ Berman, Janice (June 30, 1989). "Celebrating Bronislava Nijinska". Newsday.
  36. ^ Siegel, Marcia (July 28, 1989). "Dance Theatre Tackles Nijinska". The Christian Science Monitor.
  37. ^ Tobias, Tobi (October 29, 1985). New York. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ^ Barnes, Clive (October 15, 1985). "'Les Noces': Nijinska by Feld". New York Post.
  39. ^ Anderson, Jack (October 10, 1985). "Fed Ballet: 'Les Noces'". The New York Times.
  40. ^ Anderson, Jack (October 6, 1985). "The Feld Ballet Stages a Legendary Russian Work". The New York Times.
  41. ^ Berman, Janice (October 6, 1985). "Feld revives Nijinska's 'Les Noces'". New York Newsday.
  42. ^ Shapiro, Laura (October 28, 1985). "Nijinska Stages a Comeback". Newsweek.
  43. ^ Anderson (1991).
  44. ^ Los Angeles Times obituary.
  45. ^ "Irina Nijinska, 77, dancer, teacher". The Express. July 5, 1991.
  46. ^ Ulrich, Allan (July 8, 1991). "Nijinska: A legacy of devotion". San Francisco Examiner.
  47. ^ Anderson, Jack (August 18, 1991). "Preserving Nijinska's Ballets: A Family Affair". The New York Times.
  48. ^ Hunt, Marilyn (July 6, 1991). "Irina Nijinska". The Independent.
  49. ^ Gere, David (September 29, 1991). "An era ends: Oakland Ballet, dance writer mourn loss of Irina Nijinska". Oakland Tribune.
  50. ^ Jowitt, Deborah (March 10, 1992). "A Heavy Heart". The Village Voice.
  51. ^ Zegel, Maureen (February 24 – March 2, 1989). "Irina Nijinska Comes to the Missouri Concert Ballet". Webster-Kirkwood Times.
  52. ^ Berger, Jerry (December 21, 1988). "Ballet Grand Dame Checks Out Our Act". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  53. ^ De Nussac, Sylvie (April 6, 1991). "Faune et biches: On redécouvre sans cesse avec émerveillement la modernité des Ballets russes". Le Monde.
  54. ^ Pitt, Freda (June 1991). "Paris and Italy". The Dancing Times: 857–858.
  55. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (December 15, 1984). "Dance: The 1923 Nijinska-Stravinsky 'Les Noces'". The New York Times.
  56. ^ Brightman, Adam (March 27, 1984). "Nijinska's Les Noces: A Revival". The Load.
  57. ^ Gwynne, Foxy (December 12, 1984). "Mme. Nijinska at SUNY for Les Noces". The (N.Y.) Ledger, Bedford Section.
  58. ^ Jowitt, Deborah (March 27, 1984). The Village Voice. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  59. ^ Beals, Kathie (February 17, 1984). "Ballet: A Family Tradition". Gannett Westchester Newspapers.
  60. ^ Dunning, Jennifer (March 6, 1984). "The Dance: 'Les Noces'". The New York Times.
  61. ^ "Irina Nijinska Sets Mother's Famed 'Les Noces' on Pittsburgh Ballet". Market Square. September 4, 1985.
  62. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (April 13, 1988). "From Montreal, and All Stravinsky". The New York Times.
  63. ^ Tobias, Tobi (November 27, 1989). "Wishful Thinking". New York: 86.
  64. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (November 12, 1989). "The Joffrey Performs a Masterpiece Masterfully". The New York Times.
  65. ^ Kriegsman, Alan M. (October 7, 1989). "Jubilant Joffrey". The Washington Post.
  66. ^ Sommers, Pamela (October 1, 1989). "'In Celebration' of the Nijinskys: Joffrey Brings Reconstructed 'Sacre' and 'Noces' to Town". The Washington Post.
  67. ^ Jowitt, Deborah (December 5, 1989). "Lovely Accommodations". The Village Voice.

On-line obituaries[edit]