SF Ballet: Natl. Ballet of Canada – “Nijinsky”

San Francisco Ballet presents
The National Ballet of Canada
Nijinsky” A ballet by John Neumeier
April 3-8, 2018
San Francisco Opera House


Before you go to see the amazing production of “Nijinsky” at the SF Opera House, open your copy of Nijinsky’s biography, find your dance history book and look for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe. Then the kaleidoscope of Nijinsky’s roles and the characters that appear in Part One, a retrospect of the dancer, and ‘’Les Ballet Russe” will become clear. If not available, take time to read your souvenir program.

As a dancer Nijinsky appeared in Fokine’s ballets, “Petrushka”, “Le Spectre de la Rose,” and “Scheherzade.” Then, under Diaghilev, who, as the program notes, regarded Nijinsky as his “love-protege,” the dancer became a choreographer. He choreographed “L’Apre midi d’un faune,” “Jeux,” and then the shocking “Le Sacre du printemps,“ to Stravinsky’s “controversial score.” All this, Neumeier notes, implies that Nijinsky “broke new and original paths toward modern choreography.” But, as can be seen in the well dramatized opening sections of this production, the audiences were not pleased.

Neumeier sets the ballet in Nijinsky’s mind, has him imagining his various roles as well as the intrusion and humiliation the dancer suffered with Diaghilev’s love and estrangement. All this passes before the audience in a setting imagined at the Suvrette-House performance. We witness Nijinsky’s wife, his sister (the famous choreographer Bronislava), his brother, his mother and father, the ballerina Tamara Karsavina and the “new” dancer, Leonid Massine, who succeeded Nijinsky as Diaghlev’s lover and next choreographer for the Ballet Russe. Do your homework!

Nijinsky, as dancer is performed primarily by Guilliaume Coté, a brilliant dancer who is particularly moving in the second half of the program which is located in the mad house of his mind. All the events of his life, including World War !, death and infidelity haunt him. Coté is able to master a variety of gestures and acrobatic skills to portray madness. The company around him, taking many roles, provide a set of gorgeous montage chorus stagings. All soloists deliver great performances: Romala, Heather Ogden; Bronislava, Jenna Savella; Nijinsky’s brother, Dylan Tedaldi; Diaghilev, Evan McKie; Tmara Karsavina, Sonia Rodriguez; Massine, Skyler Campbell. Naomi Ebe takes various roles as alternative Nijinskys. He is outstanding as the Harlequin in “Carnaval.”

The company, soloists and corps, deserve great appreciation and applause for this amazing production. Neumeier’s vision and choreographic design for the piece is ingenious. The SF Ballet Orchestra, under conductor David Briskin handled the variety of musical selections with great skill. Do your homework and Go!

Guillaume Côté in “Nijinsky” National Ballet of Canada© Aleksandar Antonijevic