The Australian Ballet secures a rare opportunity to perform the iconic Nijinsky for the first time. A portrait of a ballet legend, it opens in Melbourne on 7 September before touring to Adelaide and Sydney.
The Australian Ballet is thrilled to unveil its premiere production of John Neumeier‘s acclaimed Nijinsky. Rarely seen outside Europe and performed by The Australian Ballet for the first time, Nijinsky takes audiences inside the mind of a ballet legend. The work runs in Melbourne from 7 – 17 September, before touring to Adelaide from 14 – 19 October, and to Sydney from 11 – 28 November.
This is the story of ballet icon Vaslav Nijinsky, as told by one of the greatest living choreographers and the master of the modern story ballet, John Neumeier. Celebrity, visionary, muse: Nijinsky changed dance forever with his explosive leap and his shockingly sensual choreography, before a dark descent into madness ended his career. A masterful portrait of a groundbreaking artist, the ballet was created in 2000 on the 50th anniversary of the dancer’s death.
Nijinsky’s transcendent performances made him the talk of Paris in the early 20th century. His unconventional and sensuous choreography sparked outrage and acclaim in equal measures. The Rite of Spring, a collaboration with composer Igor Stravinsky, famously incited a riot at its premiere in Paris. His distinct style and fearless experimentation brought ballet into the modern era.
The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister, said, “When I first saw this production in 2001, I instantly knew it was a masterpiece and one of the most important ballets of our time. This work is rarely performed outside Europe and we have been working with John Neumeier for 15 years to bring it to the Australian stage. For me it is one of the most exciting productions ever undertaken by The Australian Ballet.”
John Neumeier has granted The Australian Ballet the rare opportunity to present this special work. Nijinsky is a tour de force for the whole company, but especially for the male dancers, who will take centre stage. Over two acts, seven male dancers portray the many facets of the Russian-Polish dancer. Their performances are set amidst the exotic glamour of the Ballets Russes period. The Russian company’s elaborate sets and costumes were renowned internationally and influenced by collaborations with talents such as Léon Bakst, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel.
Born in Kiev in 1890 to two celebrated dancers, Nijinsky’s introduction to ballet began at an early age. At nine he was accepted by the Imperial Ballet School in Russia, the world’s leading dance school at that time. In 1909 he joined the Ballets Russes, a new company started by Sergei Diaghilev. The impresario took his productions around the world and Nijinsky became the company’s star male dancer. He used the opportunity to experiment with choreography and he lifted the profile of the male dancer. He performed with the Ballets Russes until 1917. The dancer was forced to leave the company by his mentor and lover Diaghilev who was outraged by Nijinsky’s decision to marry Romola de Pulszky. Nijinsky worked alone for several years before a tragic breakdown cut short his extraordinary career at a young age. At just 29 years old, Nijinsky suffered a nervous breakdown. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, he retired from the stage and would not perform again. He was institutionalised on and off until his death in 1950.
The ballet Nijinsky opens with the artist’s last public performance, in the ballroom of a Swiss hotel, in 1919. As Nijinsky dances, his memories and hallucinations come to life onstage, interwoven with recollections of his greatest performances. The stage is filled with his closest friends – the larger-than-life impresario of the Ballets Russes Sergei Diaghilev; his wife, whom he met on a sea voyage to South America; and his family members. Nijinsky’s memories of childhood and schooling are interspersed with nightmarish visions of infidelity, death, and the horrors of World War I. As the solipsism of Nijinsky’s illness takes over, the world seems to be going mad around him. Moving between extremes of ecstasy and anguish, Nijinsky is both a moving tribute and a spectacular piece of theatre.
7 – 17 September (11 performances)
Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre
with Orchestra Victoria
14 – 19 October (6 performances)
Adelaide Festival Centre, Festival Theatre
with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
11 – 28 November (19 performances)
Sydney Opera House, Joan Sutherland Theatre
with Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra
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WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
“a stunning homage to a great experimentalist and a compelling theatrical achievement in its own right” – Chicago Tribune
“Neumeier has created a ballet for the ages” – The Globe and Mail