The Kennedy Center

Vaslav Nijinsky


Born in Kiev, Russia, in 1890, Vaslav Nijinsky was a legendary performer in the history of dance and a revolutionary choreographer. Both his parents were celebrated dancers; they had their own dance company and performed throughout the Russian Empire. The father taught his children, and at the age of nine, Nijinsky entered the Imperial School of Dancing in St. Petersburg. When he graduated in 1907 Nijinsky joined the Mariinsky Theatre as a soloist. His great elevation, steel-like strength, and intense charismatic personality enchanted both audiences and critics.

From 1907 to 1911 Nijinsky danced all of the leading parts at the Mariinsky Theatre and did guest performances at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Early in his career, he met the impresario and art critic Sergei Diaghilev, who took Nijinsky on as his protégé.

In 1909, Diaghilev’s newly formed company, Ballets Russes, visited Paris with Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova as lead dancers. The tour was a success and greatly enhanced the reputation of both dancers. Two noted ballets he performed in were Fokine's Pavilion d'Armide (1909), and Spectre de la Rose (1911).

In 1912 Nijinsky began to choreograph his own performances, producing landmark and controversial ballets such as L'Après-midi d'un Faune (1912), Le Sacre du Printemps (1913), and Till Eulenspiegel (1916).

Nijinsky had a nervous breakdown in 1919 and his career effectively ended. He spent the rest of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums. He died in a London clinic on 1950 and was buried in London until 1953 when his body was moved to a cemetery in Paris.
Vaslav Nijinsky