January is a true example of the “circle of life” for the Ballets Russes. While we will celebrate both Nijinska and Balanchine’s birthday’s this month, we will also recognize the death of Anna Pavlova. Bronislava Nijinska’s birthday will be celebrated January 8th, Balanchine’s on the 22nd. January 23rd marks the loss of Pavlova.
Today, I wanted to remember Bronislava, she is one of my favorites. She was friends with Marie Laurencin, one of my favorite artsts. Marie did scenery for Bronislava's "Les Biches".
Bronislava Nijinska was born in Minsk, the third child of the Polish dancers Tomasz and Eleonora Bereda Niżyńsky. Her brother was Vaslav Nijinsky. She was just 4 years old when she made her theatrical debut in a Christmas pageant with her brothers in Nizhny Novgorod. In 1900 she and her brother were accepted at the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg on a 7-year scholarship from the State of Russia. From 1900 - 1907 she studied dance and music at the Imperial School of Ballet, graduating with honors as a ballet dancer. Her first teacher was Enrico Cecchetti. After graduating in 1908, she then joined the Maryinsky Ballet. She and her brother joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1909. Some of the roles she created were in Fokine's "Carnaval" 1910, and "Petrushka" in 1911. Vaslav was dismissed from the Maryinsky Ballet in 1911, Nijinska insisted that she also be dismissed, and she was forced to forfeit her title "Artist of the Imperial Theatre." Nijinska danced in her brother's short lived ballet company in London in 1914.
In 1915, she returned to Russia. Nijinska danced in Kiev, opening a school where she trained her most famous student, Serge Lifar. In 1921 Nijinska rejoined the Ballets Russes. While a dancer with the Ballets Russes, she also became the chief choreographer of the company. One of her first pieces was "Three Ivans" for Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty. Her first ballets were Igor Stravinsky's "Renard" in 1922 and Les Noces 1923. The following year she choreographed "Les Biches", "Les Fâcheux" and "Le Train Bleu". Bronislava later choreographed for the Paris Opéra, Opéra Russe à Paris, and her own company.
So, on Friday, January 8th, take a moment and remember a woman well ahead of her time. Read her biography!