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 Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky

Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky

Birth
Kiev, City of Kiev, Ukraine
Death 8 Apr 1950 (aged 60)
London, City of London, Greater London, England
Burial*
*–This is the original burial site
East Finchley, London Borough of Barnet, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 4604 · View Source
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Dancer. He will be remembered as an early 20th century ballet dancer who ushered in a modern era of dance. He was known for his gravity-defying leaps and en pointe, which is rarely performed by a male dancer who has to support all his body on the tip of fully extended feet in ballet shoes. He was Polish but lived in Imperial Russia as a child with his parents and two siblings; all were professional dancers. In 1897, his parents separated. Starting in 1898, he studied dancing at the St. Petersburg Imperial School of Ballet where he excelled in dancing but not so in other studies. While dancing in 1901, he had a fall leaving him comatose for four days. Understanding his family's health problems helps to understand him. His older brother was admitted to a mental hospital in 1902 for behavioral problems, which was reported as might being related to an old head injury. He graduated second in his class with his highest grades in music, art, and of course dancing. He had a near-death experience during a protest in a civil unrest in Russia. After taking supporting roles in several ballets, his debut solo was in the Maryinsky Theater in 1907 appearing in such classics as “Giselle”, “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty”. He traveled to Paris in 1909 with the Ballet Russes, the newly-formed Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company, receiving successful French reviews. Diaghilev always wanted very traditional performances from him, yet Nijinsky did choreographed three ballets but stirred controversy by pushing the boundaries with modern sexual body movements. In October 1912, his father died and shortly afterward, his depressed mother starved herself to death. While touring in South American on September 10, 1913 in Buenos Aires, he married a ballet student, Romola, countess de Pulszky-Lubocy-Cslfalva, a Hungarian politician's daughter. It was an odd match as initially, the couple did not speak the same language. The marriage caused problems between him and Diaghilev resulting in him being dismissed without no means of support. He was never under contract or paid a salary while dancing. The couple went to Hungary to her parents' home. During World War I, he was placed under house arrest for being a Russian citizen in Budapest, Hungary, and only upon the insistence of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Diaghilev, and European nobility was he released to travel to the United States on April 4, 1916. He made an American tour and then one to South America, where he was barely able to performed his last ballet on September 30, 1917. The stress of his imprisonment, traveling during wartime, the responsibility of being a new father, and the poor attempt of being his own manager impacted his mental health. He was always a quiet, shy man but now he had paranoid thoughts and unable to function. The family settled in Switzerland and in 1919 he was committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. This was his first time of many hospitalizations for his disease, which ended his dancing career. His second daughter was born in 1920, but with his illness and his wife being his care giver, the child's maternal grandmother took charge of the child's care. During World War II, he was arrested this time by the Nazi regime for having his Russian connections. In the late 1940's, the couple moved to London, England. He died while in a clinic and was buried in London. In 1953 his body was moved to Cimetiere de Montmartre. He kept a diary and the complete unexpurgated diary was published in 2006. A heavily edited version was earlier published in 1936. Other books on his life include “Nijinsky: A Life” by Lucy Moore, “Nijinsky: A Life of Genius and Madness” by Richard Buckle, and “Vaslav Nijinsky: A Leap Into Madness” by Peter Ostwald. His life's story has been told in ballet and movies; the film “The Red Shoes” is basically his story.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 23 Feb 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4604
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky (28 Dec 1889–8 Apr 1950), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4604, citing East Finchley Cemetery and Crematorium, East Finchley, London Borough of Barnet, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .