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L'après-midi d'un faune (1912)

CN D - Centre national de la danse 2015 - Director : Caroff, Stéphane

Choreographer(s) : Nijinsky, Vaslav (Russian Federation) Brun, Dominique (France)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse , CN D - Spectacles et performances

Video producer : Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

L'après-midi d'un faune (1912)

CN D - Centre national de la danse 2015 - Director : Caroff, Stéphane

Choreographer(s) : Nijinsky, Vaslav (Russian Federation) Brun, Dominique (France)

Present in collection(s): Centre national de la danse , CN D - Spectacles et performances

Video producer : Centre national de la danse

Integral video available at CND de Pantin

en fr

L'Après-midi d'un faune - version 1912

The Afternoon of a Faun - 1912 version

The inaugural opus of Nijinsky’ work, The Afternoon of a Faun was composed in close collaboration with his sister Bronislava, who in turn was to become one of the most prominent artists of Western dance of her time. He took as his base Claude Debussy’s famous score, played here in the transcription for flute and piano devised by his disciple Gustave Samazeuil. However, he turns it around to compose a poem “de geste” (from the old French, “poem of heroic deeds”) and, in so doing, marks a real turning point in modern dance. The written score that he took care to prepare effectively reveals an extraordinarily detailed precise writing style. This is the rigor that allowed Nijinsky to render in fictitious form the invention of a new corporeality, circumventing along the way the norms of the gendered scenario inherited from tradition.

(source : programme du CND)

Nijinsky, Vaslav

Nijinsky was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent. Nijinsky was one of the most gifted male dancers in history.  His ability to perform seemingly gravity-defying leaps was legendary.  Nijinsky was born in Kiev, Ukraine, son of Polish dancers Tomasz Niżyński and Eleonora Bereda. In 1900, he joined the Imperial Ballet School, where he studied under Enrico Cecchetti, and Nicholas Legat.  At only 18 years old he was given a string of leads. In 1910, a fellow Imperial Ballet dancer, Mathilde Kschessinskaya, selected Nijinsky to dance in a revival of Marius Petipa's Le Talisman, during which Nijinsky created a sensation in the role of the Wind God Vayou.


Nijinsky met Sergei Diaghilev, a celebrated and highly innovative producer of ballet and opera as well as art exhibitions, who concentrated on promoting Russian visual and musical art particularly in Paris.  In 1909, Diaghilev took his dance company, the Ballets Russes, to Paris, with Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova as the leads. The show was a huge success.   Nijinsky's talent showed in Fokine's pieces such as Le Pavillon d'Armide, Cleopatra and The Feast.  His partnership with Tamara Karsavina, also of the Mariinsky Theatre, was legendary, and they have been called the "most exemplary artists of the time".


Then, Nijinsky went back to the Mariinsky Theatre, but was dismissed for appearing on-stage during a performance as Albrecht in Giselle wearing tights without the modesty trunks, obligatory for male dancers in the company. The Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna, complained that his appearance was obscene, and he was dismissed. It is probable that Diaghilev arranged the scandal, in order that Nijinsky could be free to appear with his company in the west, where many of his projects now centered around him. He danced lead roles in Fokine's new productions Le Spectre de la Rose, and Igor Stravinsky's Petrouchka, in which his impersonation of a dancing but lifeless puppet was widely admired.


Nijinsky took the creative reins and choreographed ballets. His ballets were L'après-midi d'un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun, based on Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune) (1912), Jeux (1913), Till Eulenspiegel (1916) and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring, with music by Igor Stravinsky) (1913). Nijinsky created choreography that exceeded the limits of traditional ballet and propriety. For the first time, his audiences were experiencing the futuristic, new direction of modern dance. The radically angular movements expressed the heart of Stravinsky's radically modern scores. Nijinsky's new trends in dance caused a riotous reaction at the Théâtre de Champs-Elysées when they premiered in Paris.


In 1913, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes toured South America. Diaghilev did not make this fateful journey, because he was told by a fortune teller in his younger days, that he would die on the ocean if he ever sailed. Without his mentor's supervision, Nijinsky entered into a relationship with Romola Pulszky, a Hungarian countess. An ardent fan of Nijinsky, she booked passage on board a ship that Nijinsky was due to travel on, and during the voyage Romola succeeded in engaging his affections.  They were married in Buenos Aires when the company returned to Europe. Diaghilev is reported to have flown into a rage, culminating in Nijinsky's dismissal. Nijinsky tried in vain to create his own troupe, but a crucial London engagement failed due to administrative problems.


During World War I, Nijinsky was interned in Hungary. Diaghilev succeeded in getting Nijinsky out for the American tour in 1916. During this time, Nijinsky choreographed and danced the leading role in Till Eulenspiegel. However, it was around this time in his life that signs of his dementia praecox were becoming apparent to members of the company.


Nijinsky had a nervous breakdown in 1919, and his career effectively ended. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and taken to Switzerland by his wife, where psychiatrist treated him unsuccessfully, Eugene Bleuler. He spent the rest of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums. Nijinsky died in a London clinic on April 8, 1950 and was buried in London until 1953 when his body was moved to Cimetière de Montmartre.  The tombstone of Vaslav Nijinsky is in Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris. The statue, donated by Serge Lifar, shows Nijinsky as the puppet Petrouchka.


While immortalized in numerous still photographs, no film exists of Nijinsky dancing. Diaghilev never allowed the Ballets Russes to be filmed. He felt that the quality of film at the time could never capture the artistry of his dancers and that the reputation of the company would suffer if people saw it only in short jerky films.


Source : Russian ballet’s historical website


More information : 

http://www.russianballethistory.com

Brun, Dominique

Dancer and choreographer, Dominique Brun has also been a dance examiner since 1995. She is the co-founder of the La Salamandre dance company and the Quatuor Albrecht Knust. She has worked with the latter on the re-creation of dances from the historical repertoire based on scores created using the Laban system. In 2003, she continued this work with the Ligne de Sorcière association. She is the author of the DVD “Le Faune – un film ou la fabrique de l'archive” (2007). In 2008, she recreated “L'Après-midi d'un faune” (The Afternoon of a faun) for Olivier Dubois's show “Faune(s)”.

Updated: May 2013

Caroff, Stéphane

L'Après-midi d'un faune - version 1912

Choreography : Vaslav Nijinski - Reprise et transmission sous la direction de Dominique Brun

Interpretation : Emmanuelle Huynh

Other collaborations : Enregistré au CND le dimanche 8 novembre 2015 dans le cadre de Scènes du geste

Duration : 10 minutes

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