Coming in February, John Neumeier and the Hamburg Ballet will perform “Nijinsky” at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Below (from SF Classical Voice and authored by Janice Berman), is Part 1 of an overview of the ballet:
Nijinsky, John Neumeier’s full-length spectacular inspired by the seminal dancer, choreographer, and tragic figure of the 20th century, has arrived in San Francisco 13 years after its premiere. No point mourning that lost time. Just hasten over to the War Memorial Opera House and take it all in. The San Francisco Ballet is hosting the Hamburg Ballet, where the Milwaukee-born Neumeier, who began poring over Vaslav Nijinsky’s biography “before puberty,” as he puts it, is marking his 40th anniversary as Hamburg’s artistic director. He’s created many other ballets, including last year’s SFB hit The Little Mermaid, but Nijinsky’s explosive, searing essence lets us know that it’s the one closest to Neumeier’s heart.
Nijinsky begins and ends with the end of Nijinsky’s career — his final performance on Jan. 19, 1919 in a hotel ballroom in St. Moritz. As the elegant crowd looks on, Nijinsky (Alexandre Riabko) looks back. Other dancers portray characters for which he became famous, in a kind of swirling fantasy; his family, dancers all, dances in as well. His mother, Eleonora Bereda and his father, Thomas Nijinsky, a pair of dancers; his wife, Romola (Hélène Bouchet), in red; his sister the choreographer Bronislava Nijinska (Patricia Tichy), his mentally disturbed dancer brother Stanislaw (Aleix Martínez). And, importantly, there is Serge Diaghilev (Carsten Jung), the impresario, Nijinsky’s mentor and lover, who fired Nijinsky after he married Romola, ending his career.
A sense of shape-shifting suffuses the ballet. Nobody remains what he or she seems for very long, except, of course, Nijinsky. In the first act, in fact, even the ballroom seems to melt and slide, as the dance grows more crazed and Nijinsky’s perceptions more skewed. Neumeier has a gift for body expressiveness in individual characters but also in big groups. In the first act, a circling, leaping skein of women, gowned in shades of brilliant orange, helps connect more intimate sequences.
Stay tuned for Part II of the article, coming next month.