In 1981, at the Sydney Theatre Company, we presented a stylish production of Chinchilla, a play by Robert David MacDonald of the Glasgow Citizens Theatre. Chinchilla was the nickname of Serge Diaghilev, the impresario who created the Ballets Russes which revolutionised dance in the early 20th century. That such a play was written and produced is evidence of the enduring fascination with Diaghilev’s influence on design, music and dance. The most famous dancer in the company was Vaslav Nijinsky, known by Parisians as ‘The God of Dance’. Now Australia is experiencing a full length ballet titled Nijinsky, already presented by The Australian Ballet in Melbourne and shortly in Adelaide and Sydney.
Nijinsky is entirely the creation of John Neumeier, legendary Artistic Director of Hamburg Ballet for 43 years. His long absorption in the short but influential career of Nijinsky – barely a decade ending in 1919 – led to the first staging of this work in Hamburg in 2000. The designs, all by Neumeier, are based partly on sketches by Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois for the Ballets Russes. His choice of music includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony with Chopin and Schumann. His choreography places considerable demands on the dancers. Nijinsky’s prowess and sensual impact on stage, before succumbing to delusional mental illness, are all depicted. A century later, Diaghilev and Nijinsky are enduring influences.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues