This is the story of the greatest choreographer and male dancer of the 20th century. Russian born, Nijinsky was the male star of the Ballets Russes, celebrated for his gravity-defying leaps, virtuosity and unprecedented onstage intensity. But it was his shockingly sensual choreography that sparked outrage in theatres across Europe. The Russian visionary changed dance forever.
A biopic of a legend, this is a searing look into the mind of a genius of our times. But he was essentially a shy and awkward man. It is also a tragic story of the artist’s downward spiral. After a disastrous marriage and an acrimonious break-up with his lover Serge Diaghilev, which ended his career with the Ballets Russes, deprived of opportunities to dance, he began his dark descent into madness. He would never dance publicly again and spent his final 30 years in and out of mental asylums.
This story travels the artist’s journey from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of depression, and is told through vivid memories unfolding in the dancer’s mind during his last performance at a Swiss hotel. The intensity of the work is heighten by a backdrop of exotic glamour and extravagance inspired by the Ballets Russes.
The Ballets Russes turned the art form upside down with its groundbreaking collaborations with artists like Bakst, Picasso and Chanel – and captivated Europe with its style. Neumeier evokes this heady era with costumes and sets of his own design, based on Ballets Russes productions.
As well as an emotional journey and a grand spectacle, this will be a feast for the ears, Neumeier has set his ‘biography of the soul’ to a collage of music from great composers including Chopin, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Schumann.
Rather than recreating Nijinsky’s most famous roles (like the Golden Slave, the Rose, the Faun, and Petroushka), Neumeier evokes them with fragments of choreography in the style of the ballets. Seven men dance Nijinsky at various points of the ballet, showing off the breadth of male talent in the company, who are given the opportunity to evoke Nijinsky’s distinctive style.
Director of Hamburg Ballet since 1973, John Neumeier studied literature and danced at Stuttgart Ballet under the direction of John Cranko – both excellent preparations for his prolific career as a maker of story ballets inspired by great writers (his ballets include The Lady of the Camellias, Death in Venice and A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as several works based on Shakespeare). He is also one of the world’s foremost Nijinsky experts and has made three ballets based on his life.
Both a moving tribute and a spectacular piece of theatre, Nijinsky will transport you inside the mind of a genius – and to extremes of anguish and ecstasy.
“… a stunning homage to a great experimentalist and a compelling theatrical achievement in its own right” – Chicago Tribune
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 7 – 17 September 2016
Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: 14 – 19 October 2016
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Season: 11 – 28 November 2016
For more information, visit: www.australianballet.com.au for details.
Image: The Australian Ballet presents Nijinsky – photo by Justin Ridler