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Chamber Dance Company Archive: Vaslav Nijinsky

A unique collection of video documenting the UW Chamber Dance Dance Company's over 25 year history of performing modern dance classics.

Vaslav Nijinsky

Russian ballet dancer and modern dance choreographer
One of the most important male dancers of all time

I am an artist who loves all shapes and all kinds of beauty . . . God is beauty with feeling. Beauty is in feeling.

                                 Vaslav Nijinsky

Born Kiev (now Ukraine), Russia, December 28, 1889. Died London, England, April 8, 1950.

Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky shocked Paris and changed the face of dance for years to come when L’Après midi d’un faune premiered in 1912. It was not only the content of the dance that shocked the art world, but also the sparseness and two-dimensional nature of the movement vocabulary (as if the dancers had stepped out of a Greek frieze), seemingly set in direct opposition to the lush and flowing music by Debussy. Even the posture of the dancers suggests oppositional forces: nearly all of the movement occurs with the upper body twisted at a 45º angle to the hips. The conflict that followed Faune’s premiere resulted in police being ordered to stop subsequent performances. Although Nijinsky created only a handful of works, including Rite of Spring, his mark on modern choreography is indelible. He is also remembered as an extraordinary performer with powerful technical abilities and intense magnetism. His performing career was intimately linked with Serge Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes. Diaghilev fired Nijinsky from the company just a few years after the premiere of Faune and after choreographing Rite of Spring. Soon after that Nijinsky entered a sanatorium, where he spent the last thirty years of his life.

Watch a performance of Vaslav Nijinsky's l'Apres-midi d'un Faune at the Media Arcade in Vol. 42 of the Chamber Dance Company Archive (DVD UWDP 001 v.42).