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Vatslav Nizhinsky Vatslav Nizhinsky

10 September

On September 10, 1913, in Buenos-Aires, Argentina, the outstanding Russian ballet dancer Vatslav Nizhinsky married a Hungarian countess, Romola de Pulszky. Sergey Diagilev, founder of the celebrated Russian Ballet in Paris, was so outraged by this act that he immediately dismissed Nizhinsky from the company.

Diagilev’s perfect instincts dictated to him to admit a handsome 18-year-old dancer to the company, and he placed a bet on the horse. Though soon expelled from the Imperial Theater for his provocative choreography, Nizhinsky won his laurels in Paris, as he became Diagilev’s premier danseur, wowing the audience by the excellent performance of any part he was offered.

Though Diagilev lent Nizhinksy every support and promoted him in every possible way, in return, he demanded Nizhinsky’s complete surrender and subjugation, both professionally and spiritually. Ever after, wherever Nizhinsky went he was constantly and vigilantly escorted by one of Diagilev’s most faithful servants; though initially meant as a security guard, this person could be better described as a prison warden.

Some suggested that Nizhinsky cast this plague upon himself by seducing the homosexual Diagilev in exchange for his promise of tours and large incomes. When Diagilev’s possessiveness superseded the area of personal relationships and interfered in the creative process, as he dictated to Nizhinsky what to do on stage, the ballet dancer decided to escape the iron shackles of Diagilev’s dictatorship and defected into the arms of the young and beautiful Hungarian countess Romola de Pulzsky.

Romola first saw Nizhinsky at the premiere of the Russian Ballet in Budapest and fell irretrievably in love with him. Her obsession was so big it drove her to go on tours after him, and encouraged her to take ballet lessons. Nizhinsky didn’t know her name and every time they were introduced he thought he was seeing her for the first time. However, when Diagilev’s dictatorship and jealousy exhausted his patience, he very hastily proposed to Romola. After Diagilev heard the news, he immediately announced that Nizhinsky was no longer welcome in the Russian Ballet company. Driven insane by Nizhinsky’s insolent act, he not only severed any connections at work, but also stopped communication with Nizhinsky, not talking to him for years. As part of their ongoing fierce rivalry for the dancer, Romola filed a lawsuit against Diagilev, demanding 500 thousand French francs as a compensation for Nizhinsky’s lost work with the ballet company. Though she won the case, Diagilev never paid the money, still considering himself deeply insulted by Nizhinsky’s betrayal.

Exhausted by the tangled relationships between his wife and ageing Diagilev, Nizhinsky’s mind couldn’t deal with so much pressure. Moreover, all his personal trepidations were aggravated by a series of accidents on stage which only helped develop his persecution mania: once a moving light collapsed right on the spot where he was assigned to stand; another time, the set decoration was not fixed properly and fell as he was dancing. Gradually, he secluded himself from people and was the first one to actually diagnose his condition in his dairy, “My soul is unwell. I am incurably ill.” His mental state deteriorated and he spent the remaining 30 years of his life in an institution.