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You gu gu and I gu gu

Andrew O’Hagan: Vaslav Nijinsky

20 July 2000
The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky 
edited by Joan Acocella and Kyril Fitzylon.
Allen Lane, 312 pp., £20, August 1999, 0 7139 9354 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Macmillan, 396 pp., £12, May 2000, 0 333 76622 9
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... Nijinsky began to lose his mind in a Swiss village in 1919. He was only 29 years old, still dazzling, animal-like, an Aschenbach vision on the Lido, a young man who could jump and pause in the air: but he ...

Half Snake, Half Panther

James Davidson: Nijinsky

26 September 2013
Nijinsky 
by Lucy Moore.
Profile, 324 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 1 84668 618 4
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... Tcherepnine holds up his baton waiting for the applause to subside. The long white gloves of the ladies and the white cuffs of the men rise in swells over the theatre like a flock of white doves.’ Nijinsky was hailed by the Figaro as the ‘dieu de la danse’. Not for the last time. The year before, Nijinsky had started a relationship with Diaghilev: ‘I trembled like an aspen leaf,’ he recalled in ...

God in the Body

Anne Hollander

25 January 1996
Cahiers: Le Sentiment 
by Nijinsky, translated into French by Christian Dumais-Lvorski and Galina Pogojeva.
Actes Sud, 300 pp., frs 140, January 1995, 2 7427 0314 4
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... book is a cry of pure pain, immensely difficult to read without groaning and sometimes weeping and getting up to pace the floor. Its flavour is aptly illustrated by the shocking jacket photograph of Nijinsky undergoing a catatonic seizure at the age of 37, about eight years after he wrote this text. With his necktie neatly knotted, his face shaven and his hair combed, hands curled up, the greatest dancer ...
1 July 1982
Early Memoirs 
by Bronislava Nijinska, translated by Irina Nijinska and Jean Rawlinson.
Faber, 546 pp., £15, January 1982, 0 571 11892 5
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... of Glinka’s A Life for the Czar. During Act Two Eleanora Nijinska was taken to hospital and another dancer took her place. When the curtain came down on Act Three a messenger arrived to tell Thomas Nijinsky that he had a daughter. He already had two sons: Stanislav, aged four, and Vaslav, later le dieu de la danse, who was two. Bronislava Nijinska grew up to be one of the few choreographers of any ...

At the V&A

Peter Campbell: The Ballets Russes

4 November 2010
... and therefore diminished by the absence of the environment they were created for, are the costumes and stage cloths. There are records of how the dancers looked. Valentine Gross’s swift sketches of Nijinsky are important because they seem to say more than photographs about how he moved – Diaghilev wouldn’t let the ballets be filmed. Still photographs, on the other hand, like the one of Nijinsky as ...

No Beast More Refined

James Davidson: How Good Was Nureyev?

29 November 2007
Rudolf Nureyev: The Life 
by Julie Kavanagh.
Fig Tree, 787 pp., £25, September 2007, 978 1 905490 15 8
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... of the last act of La Bayadère. The audience, who knew nothing of La Bayadère, screamed with delight. One former Diaghilev dancer, Serge Lifar, spoke of an ‘époque Noureev’ and awarded him the Nijinsky Prize. But Lubov Egorova, the octogenarian Princess Trubetskoy, who had actually danced with Nijinsky, insisted that Nureyev had something more. Nureyev’s massive success put the Russian ...

Burn Down the Museum

Stephanie Burt: The Poetry of Frank Bidart

6 November 2008
Watching the Spring Festival 
by Frank Bidart.
Farrar, Straus, 61 pp., $25, April 2008, 978 0 374 28603 3
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... War allowed me to project, – to EMBODY, – an ultimate ‘aspect’ of the ‘self’ … Such extreme typesetting reflects extreme states of mind: the speaker here is the great dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, depicted in 1919 as he goes mad. If you read the books in order you will also learn early on about Bidart’s early life. Raised far from privilege, and far from the world’s great libraries, in ...
5 February 1987
... in to enhance this theatre of astonishment. The score might be by Stravinsky, the decor by Picasso, the costumes by Chanel, the libretto by Cocteau. But the blow of the sublime was delivered by a Nijinsky or a Karsavina – by the dancer. According to Kirstein, it was only with the advent of a choreographer so complete in his gifts as to change dance for ever, George Balanchine, that the primacy of ...
20 January 2000
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Picasso, Provence and Douglas Cooper 
by John Richardson.
Cape, 320 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 224 05056 7
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... de Chevigné (3), the Duchesse de Guermantes (4), the Marquis de Sade (5), Jean Cocteau (6), the Vicomte de Noailles (7), an anonymous gym instructor (8), Igor Markevitch (9), Diaghilev (10), Nijinsky (11), Maurice Gendron (12): I was the daughter of 2, an immensely rich Belgian banker, and the granddaughter of 3, who was said to be the model for 4, and was also – would you believe it? – the ...
2 April 1998
... who is much more delicately made. There was nothing delicate about Nureyev. He had legs, like the leg in the painting, that were not so much legs as hindquarters. Nureyev was often compared to Nijinsky and the comparison is apt. He was like Nijinsky but it was Nijinsky the horse. The last of my four paintings comes from the art gallery at Aberdeen, which has a particularly good collection of modern ...

Lost Jokes

Alan Bennett

2 August 1984
... the survivors; even worse jokes had bit the dust along the way. When the play opened in Manchester it included a piece about the first London visit of the Diaghilev ballet in 1911. A boy got up as Nijinsky, dressed as the faun in ‘L’Après-Midi’, dances behind a gauze, while downstage the practice pianist reminisces: Ah yes. Nijinsky. I suppose I am the only person now able to recall one of the ...

To the Great God Pan

Laura Jacobs: Goddess Isadora

23 October 2013
My Life: The Restored Edition 
by Isadora Duncan.
Norton, 322 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 87140 318 6
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... from ‘the day they were killed until the day of her own death, she was Niobe’. Which is another way of saying that Duncan didn’t, couldn’t, live by halves. In many ways she was like Vaslav Nijinsky, Adam to her Eve in the sense that both left the encircled, Edenic world of classical dance – Duncan rejecting it completely, Nijinsky slipping out by way of his choreography – for a more modern ...

The Fred Step

Anna Swan: Frederick Ashton

19 February 1998
Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton 
by Julie Kavanagh.
Faber, 675 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 571 19062 6
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... dancer but because all dancing schools were overpopulated with girls. Both Massine and Marie Rambert, Ashton’s second teacher, had been pupils of the great Enrico Cecchetti, who had taught Pavlova, Nijinsky and Karsavina, among others, and whose emphasis on épaulement (expression in the upper body) would become an Ashton trademark. Rambert was a formidable musical theorist – she had assisted Nijinsky ...

Cocteaux

Anne Stillman: Jean Cocteau

12 July 2017
Jean Cocteau: A Life 
by Claude Arnaud, translated by Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell.
Yale, 1024 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 300 17057 3
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... du printemps at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in 1913: the colours, the human bears performing primitive dances, the violent bursting forth of Russian spring, and – at the centre of it all – Nijinsky, who had leaped into Cocteau’s life a few years earlier, with ‘sylph-like grace’ and the ‘endurance of a muzhik’. He was to have a miserable end, but in Cocteau’s imagination he remained ...

Dear Sphinx

Penelope Fitzgerald

1 December 1983
The Little Ottleys 
by Ada Leverson and Sally Beauman.
Virago, 543 pp., £3.95, November 1982, 0 86068 300 1
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TheConstant Nymph 
by Margaret Kennedy and Anita Brookner.
Virago, 326 pp., £3.50, August 1983, 0 86068 354 0
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The Constant Novelist: A Study of Margaret Kennedy 1896-1967 
by Violet Powell.
Heinemann, 219 pp., £10.95, June 1983, 0 434 59951 4
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... taxi-cab, Debussy and Wagner are ‘out’, and at dinner-parties ‘one ran an equal risk of being taken to dinner by Charlie Chaplin or Winston Churchill.’ The Turkey Trot is discussed along with Nijinsky and Post-Impressionism: ‘please don’t take an intelligent interest in the subjects of the day,’ the hero begs. In Love at Second Sight he is in khaki, and wounded. At the same time the ...

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