Tag Archives: dance

The Dance of Truth Part 4

Conclusion

In this last installment I will take a look at sanity vs. insanity and how this pertains to Nijinsky specifically, but it is very relevant to us all right now as we shift consciousness and become More than we knew ourselves to be. 

I feel this simple premise, sanity vs. insanity, is, in itself, flawed. The issue starts in the prevailing paradigm: science. Science does not recognize the existence, let alone the validity, of a spiritual paradigm. In the split, during the Renaissance era, from the Church and religious doctrine, science threw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. While findings in the Quantum sciences excites the spiritually inclined these days, the opposite is not necessarily true. 

The sciences generally are partitioned off from one another. Scientific discoveries are not recognized, nor applicable, across disciplines. In the West, we ‘specialize’ through receiving a very narrow education. We are trained to stay inside the safe ‘box’ and to protect our salary and tenure.

With a great deal of Reality not being taken into consideration by this replacement religion of science, the conditions were ripe for labeling people as crazy, insane, unbalanced, psychotic, etc. There is intrinsically no room for something other than the quantifiable and measurable in this paradigm. 

As any Contact Experiencer knows, if we shared our experiences with most psychiatrists, we would be medicated and very possibly institutionalized. Even in the greater UFO community, there are the scientifically minded who are ‘studying’ the actual experiencers. It is the ‘scientists’ who get the air time with their hypotheses and theorizing, while the actual experiencers are still largely marginalized.

The Contact Experiencer, by the way, is only one category on the bandwidth of ‘spiritual experiencer’, which includes the mystic, the shaman; those who see Angels and departed loved ones; channelers, speakers of Star, Light or Mother Tongue Languages, etc. Until this Expanded Bandwidth is experienced and accepted as normal and natural by those interfacing with clients and patients, there is no common frame of reference, and therefore, no wholeness possible to either side of the psychiatric coin.

The essay, Pivotal Mental States (January 28, 2022, Aeon) suggests, as has been my gut feeling for 40 years, that what is going on in the brain preceding a so-called ‘psychotic event’, and a spiritual experience, is the same thing – they cannot be differentiated. I am not going to go into the technicalities here; you can read the article for yourself. You might also find Stanislav Groff’s book The Stormy Search for Self useful. 

The various outcomes after an Event are dependent upon the individual’s ability to process the information coming through their hardware (physical body) and their software (programming). The same Event, then, can lead to a perceived psychosis or an expanded state of understanding. Both are measures of the bandwidth available to each of us in which we perceive our reality, and subsequently, orient to Reality.

Here, I refer you again to the analogy of the fast spinning gear trying to interface with the slower spinning gear from the Introduction.

There are many stages or states of Reality depending upon the bandwidth of consciousness we are tuned into. This determines how the information is received by our body/mind/spirit unit, and more importantly, how is it translated by the individual, not the psychiatrist. No one can assess what is going on within you with any accuracy. You are the greatest expert on the subject of you.

One of the criteria that science uses to determine a psychotic state after the Event is one’s usefulness in society; one’s orientation and ability to interact with others in ‘socially acceptable’ ways, being properly socialized into their ‘culture’, and picking up on ‘social cues’, etc. 

I strongly object to this defining criteria of psychosis/psychotic behaviors. Perhaps some do not want to interact in the usual 3D material paradigm, a paradigm that contributed to the state they landed in, i.e. being seen as crazy; a paradigm that does not make sense to them. Those operating on the spectrum/bandwidth of what we habitually call Autism do not receive social cues, nor do they adhere to our socialization rules, etc. Should they be considered psychotic, or in a ‘diseased’ state – meaning they need drugs to make them more acceptable (compliant) to society at large?

As science does not recognize a spiritual dimension of reality or a state of spiritual existence, it has only a small portion of the total available information for its assessments, and therefore, treatments. Science purports to look at observable, replicable facts. One cannot observe Consciousness, nor another’s mental processes, only the effect of them, and that effect is determined by our bandwidth.

An individual’s past experiences determine their present perceptions. If one lives in a loving, open-hearted, accepting family and broader cultural context, then one is much more open to the Event establishing into a positive outcome. If one is severely abused, neglected, or has a rigid, dogmatic, narrow-minded orientation, one is likely to experience the Event negatively: demons persecuting one, eliciting fear and dread, shame and guilt. Trauma, also mentioned in the Introduction, is a key component here to opening us to More Bandwidth.

And then there are those, that may not fit the either/or who are just ready for More Bandwidth regardless of what it looks like. Increasing bandwidth is always a challenge because it requires us to question our previously cherished beliefs and it takes time to integrate the information. This is exactly what many of us are being asked to do right now in our lives. Take that time to integrate! Those with whom we have established relationships are often strongly motivated to maintaining the status quo, not expanding bandwidths. It is often more convenient to ‘put someone away’, or medicate them, rather than trying to understand that they are perceiving something we are not.

The Scottish psychiatrist, R. D. Laing (1927 – 1989) had very different views of the causes and treatment of psychopathology than the mainstream professional, and was deeply influenced by his study of philosophy – something the psychiatric orthodoxy took a dim view of. He felt that one should take the feelings of a patient as a valid personal experience rather than as a symptom of mental illness. This may seem obvious to us today, but Laing was way ahead of the curve. 

Laing felt that psychiatry itself was founded on false ‘knowledge’, i.e. that a mental illness was diagnosed by conduct, but treated biologically. He further felt that schizophrenia was a theory and not a fact; he rejected the conventional medical model of ‘mental illness’ and questioned the use of antipsychotic pharmaceuticals. He did not deny the existence of mental illness, but felt it could be a transformative episode similar to shamanic journey: the experiencer could return from the Event with important insights and perhaps a path toward personal healing. Exactly the point I am making above. Laing pioneered the way forward to a more wholistic, personally empowered way of looking at the therapeutic process, and recognized the spiritual element that his colleagues denied.

Heather Ensworth, PhD., a shamanic practitioner, astrologer and wholistic psychotherapist, states: “The difference between mysticism and psychosis is the capacity to be grounded so that you can integrate that expanding consciousness, otherwise it tends to destabilize you and overwhelm you, and then you get caught in distortions and imbalances with it.” (Pam Gregory, Youtube, Conversation with Heather Ensworth)

I recently saw a very insightful video interview with Itzhak Bentov, Czech scientist, mystic and inventor. Watch the 30 minute video on Tupacabra channel: Shadow of the Invisible Sun part 1.

Bentov postulates that highly conscious and evolved populations will most likely be found in mental institutions. “These people live in a different reality, a reality which is very changed and few of them are adapted to live in this reality. So naturally they can’t function very well,” states Bentov.

Our senses, through which we perceive are an extension of our nervous system. As our nervous system evolves to accommodate a higher consciousness, our bandwidth of perception widens. “The non-physical reality” becomes part of our perception. He uses the example of a child seeing a dead relative and telling his mother. The child is then labeled as having had a psychotic event or acute schizophrenia. 

Bentov, and others, suggest we look to the Artists because they are the first to apprehend expanded realities. Or better yet, be the Artist.

Gary P. Nolan, immunologist and inventor, in the same video, states that the intuitive function interpreted into 3D is done in the basal ganglia. This is also called the brain within the brain. Recall one of the Nijinsky quotes from part 3 written in 1919: “I am the brain in the brain. I like to look closely in the mirror and I see only one eye in my forehead.” 

Straight from the Artist’s mouth…. The basal ganglia is a form of higher functioning processing.

Moving forward, we come at last to consider Nijinsky. What did he experience? We cannot know this, but we can know, in part, how he evolved through it by our observation of his life trajectory.

Nijinsky was a child prodigy. He was envied by his peers at a very young age and this never stopped. His parents supported his dancing, but punishments were harsh and he visibly shrunk, according to his sister, when contemplating what would be meted out each time. As a youngster he was very active, mischievous, and often in trouble. As noted in Part 2, he was also incredible sensitive to everything around him.

Vaslav Nijinsky at 12 years of age

When he was 12 years old, school mates devised to dare him to jump over a heavy wooden podium. Transiting Pluto was conjunct natal Black Moon Lilith in 8th Taurus (powerful, transformative energy eliciting feelings of not belonging, being ostracised and not fitting in). They soaped the floor and at the last minute, raised the obstacle. Nijinsky crashed into it, hitting full force with his abdomen. He was taken by ambulance to hospital and it was found that he had internal bleeding with laceration to the liver (A Leap Into Madness, Peter Ostwald, 1991, p 12). The attending physician told the family to prepare for the worst; the boy’s condition was hopeless. He came to consciousness on the fifth day, and was in hospital for the rest of the school year. Afterwards he was home on a special diet through the summer. (Early Memoirs, Bronislava Nijinska, 1981, p101/102) Where did he go and what did he experience during those five days?

Nijinsky was fortunate: he had no broken bones and his spine was not injured. He would be able to continue to dance. However, Ostwald makes some interesting points: “Clearly there had been severe trauma, both physical and psychological. Massive bleeding into the abdominal cavity probably had occurred, producing a drop in blood pressure, with concomitant effects on the general circulation. Marked reduction of blood pressure can lead to the coagulation of blood within the main arteries of the brain, a serious complication. “Water infarcts,” these are called, tend to form in the frontal lobes and spread sideways. If that happens, there may be loss of speech (aphasia)…..” (Leap, p12) Was this the inception of Nijinsky’s communication problems, unnoticed at the time and unlinked to the accident later?

Throughout his life he was the recipient of extreme jealousies, petty slights and recriminations from peers. The dance world is a cut throat business. He depended upon Diaghilev for life’s necessities and opportunities to dance. When he was offered the chance to choreograph, he took it.

The public reception of Faune, so far ahead of its time, caused Diaghilev to reconsider Nijinsky’s choreographic career. There was a lot of underhanded negotiations involving Mikhail Fokine who was previously the sole choreographer of the Ballet Russes. Fokine hated Nijinsky and didn’t hide the fact. He quit the Ballet Russes rather than share choreographic privileges with Nijinsky. One wealthy patron, on whom the Ballet Russes depended, wanted Fokine reinstated; but he wouldn’t come back with Nijinsky still a member. What to do?

Nijinsky as the Faune, 1912

This lack of support from anyone, and indeed, the behind-the-back activity of Diaghilev laid the groundwork of extreme stress and on-going trauma that precipitated the Event in Nijinsky’s life: his first breakdown in the spring of1914. Prior to the Event, Nijinsky’s stress was compounded by his dismissal from the one institution where he could express himself artistically, the Ballet Russes. After the Event it was further exacerbated by inappropriate psychiatric treatment over a 30 year period.

The majority of Nijinsky’s doctors, as well as the staff in the various institutions where he stayed, did not speak his language – Russian. His mode of communication was through dance, not language, anyway. Somatic therapeutic practices as a method of healing were many decades away. No one was adequately able to reach him. 

Had R.D. Laing, or someone like him, been available to Nijinsky, his prognosis may have been very different. Laing recognized the importance of a one-to-one relationship with the client as well as with a therapeutic team. Nijinsky’s journal and his personal experiences would have been seen as important, valid and meaningful, rather than a sign of mental illness. There would have been no question that Nijinsky be provided with support and sympathetic understanding that would facilitate a healing process. He would not have been given drugs for his condition, and his care givers would have been interested in him personally and encouraged Nijinsky’s personal autonomy, creativity, and participation in his own healing process. 

Laing states, “the ‘psychiatric ceremony’ of examination, diagnosis, and treatment invalidates the clients as human beings and interferes with the healing potential of their process.” (Spiritual Emergency, Stanislav Groff, M.D., 1989, p 51)

Nijinsky tells us himself what happened in his own words: “I worked hard, but later I lost heart because I noticed that I was not liked. I withdrew so deep within myself that I could not understand people. I wept and wept…” 

Nijinsky’s deepest pain was not being understood. His deepest fear was not being able to dance and create what he felt. He longed to be in nature and live a simple life. He spent his life in the large cosmopolitan centers of Europe. We recognize only in our own time how healing Nature Herself is when we need balancing on any level. Nijinsky longed to hear the Russian language and those around him, including his caretakers, only spoke French, German or Hungarian. 

And please recall that this is in the early 1900s. There were no self-help books, nor workshops to attend; no collective acceptance of Jungian thought, no R.D. Laing, no one mirroring him, validating or corroborating the experience of his inner life either emotional or spiritual. Nijinsky was utterly isolated.

Thus, Nijinsky made a decision to retreat within. There was certainly an on-going deep struggle within him between the creative artist, the sensitive needing safety, and the enraged individual who cannot abide injustice, cruelty, war, and deception. His decision was so thorough that after a time, he never would return. Yet the spark of his genius was still noticed on occasion by those with whom he connected. It would ignite briefly, and then too soon disappear, as he again chose to stay safe within himself. 

Nijinsky’s legacy

Incredibly, with only an approximate 10-year career, Nijinsky inspired and still inspires thousands. There are many ballets honoring him, of course; the one by John Neumeier comes to mind. And a ton of books about him, many written by those who never met him or saw him dance. They usually reference Bronislava Nijinska’s wonderful memoirs for their information, as I did in part.

portrait of the artist Nijinsky by John Singer Sargent

He inspired many beautiful artworks from the artists of his time: Barbier, Sargent, Troubridge, Cocteau….

Nijinsky as the Golden Slave in Scheherazade by George Barbier

At 18 years of age, at the Maryinsky Theatre he did away with not only the full-skirted costume, but the traditional wire frame wings for the Blue Bird part in Sleeping Beauty. He used his body to dance the act of flying rather than relying on the traditional props.

When toe shoes were typically worn only by women, Nijinsky learned to dance en pointe, a rare skill among men at that time. It wasn’t until the late 1940s that more men started doing so.

There are poems, music and plays dedicated to him; he appears as a character in several novels.

There was a racehorse named Nijinsky (1967 – 1992) who became one of the greatest, most successful racehorses in history. After his retirement he sired a great number of successful offspring.

There aren’t many films about Nijinsky’s life and work, sadly. The 1980 Nijinsky staring the fabulous George de la Pena, and Riot at the Rite (2005) which was about the making of Sacre du Printemps are well worth seeing in my opinion. I keep hoping that Peter Jackson will have a secret desire to make a series on Nijinsky’s life. It’s about damn time!

In 2003 a champion Russian figure skater, Evgeni Plushenko, created A Tribute to Vaslav Nijinsky

Nijinsky and Nijinska as the Faune and Nymph by Giennadij Jerszow

In 2011 bronze cast figures of Nijinsky and Nijinska as the Faun and Nymph were unveiled in Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki’s foyer. The sculptor was well-known Ukrainian artist, Giennadij Jerszow. Rodin also created a sculpture of Nijinsky who sat for him, and it was cast in 1912 after Rodin’s death. 

The Spirit of the Rose, rare Russian pink diamond

There is a 14.83 karat Russian pink diamond named The Spirit of the Rose (the ballet created for Nijinsky); the raw diamond was named The Nijinsky. The cut piece sold for $26 million in 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland, to an anonymous buyer.

But the most important legacy that Nijinsky has left us is our fascination with him and his life that many of us feel. Not just professional dancers, but just ‘regular’ folks that really resonate with him. I love reading the comments on Youtube pieces having to do with Nijinsky. He touches many so deeply 70 years after his death, and more than 100 years since he stopped dancing professionally. 

Afterward

I have learned so much throughout the writing of this article over the first months of 2022. Not only did I come to understand more about what Nijinsky was up against as an artist, and his deep inner conflicts and longings, but I learned a huge amount about myself. It rekindled my love of dance both as a participant and an observer. I connected with an era of time that had been very important to me as a young woman. It awakened an awareness of myself in a much broader context: trans-dimensionally. It has been extremely cathartic on occasion, and a healing process of the old unworthiness wound has begun.

I keep wondering what this piece is. During so much of the research and subsequent writing I felt driven; as if I were writing to save my life. I can’t explain it any more than that. Is this piece a series of dovetailing essays, a short book, or very long article? A magical spell-working?

But now as I come to the end, I believe that what I’ve written is actually the longest love letter ever. I fell in love with the Spirit of Nijinsky 40 years ago when Pluto squared my natal Moon, at last giving it expression in this 4-part article as Pluto conjuncts my natal Moon. I hope it does his life justice, brief though it is; I hope he will accept my offering.

In closing, I will let Nijinsky’s dear sister, Bronia, have the last word, which I feel sums up his life’s necessity pretty succinctly, as well as my own conclusions.

Vaslav Nijinsky, circa 1910

“For many years I continued to believe that Vaslav would recover completely. Whenever a conversation around him touched on the Dance, one could see a sudden spark of consciousness. That part of his consciousness that lived in his vision of Art was preserved, and I knew that in this Vaslav remained completely sane. For Nijinsky, the Dance was credo, life, and soul. Without the theatre Nijinsky withdrew into himself and closed the door to the realities of life, to abide in his own inner world of the Dance.” (Memoirs, p515)

With all my heart,
Love, Zuzanna

The Dance of Truth Part 3

Nijinsky’s later years

In Part 2 I wrote about the early life of Vaslav Nijinsky up to the point of his moving to St. Moritz, Switzerland, at the end of 1917 to the Villa Guardamunt. In this installment I will look at his writings, and his institutional life – from age 29 to 61. As this is not intended to be a scholarly work, my citations appear as they do.

The earth is suffocating. Scientists extinguish the earth and human love. 
– Nijinsky 

During the year of 1918, Nijinsky may have begun to cycle between explosive broad creativity, wandering the town and snow covered slopes of St. Moritz, and raging, destructive violence. I say ‘may have’ because we only have Romola’s accounts during this isolated year, and she was known to edit the truth slightly. 

Romola with Nijinsky in a catatonic state

Nijinsky planned to create a school in Russia for choreographers, composers, and scenic artists, and drew up plans for a circular theater. He plotted out new ballets, made hundreds of drawings, and worked on his dance notation system. 

He designed a ballpoint pen because he had so much trouble writing with a fountain pen. He said he would call this pen, “God” – a good sense of humor. He felt he knew a cure for cancer. (The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky, 2006, p92) He wanted to build a bridge from Europe to America and conceptualized this using a series of cables (electric powered trains over water?). Because he was not trained as an engineer, his drawings were largely ignored for decades. No one knew what he was on about.

Nature feels me. Nature is God. I am nature. I do not like artificial nature. 
My nature is alive. I am alive. Nature is life. Life is nature. – Nijinsky

It was also here at Villa Guardamunt that news of the horrors of the First World War reached the larger civilian population. This undid Nijinsky and he obsessed and suffered deeply from hearing these reports. He worried about the poor and how he might help. Environmental issues concerned him, and the conservation of fuels. 

He mentions in his diary that he once saw the slaughter of a pig and calf, and that he could feel their terror and their tears. He ran in horror. Nijinsky didn’t want to eat meat, and everyone around him added yet another item to their list of indictments against his sanity.

At the end of this year, Bronia wrote from Russia that their older brother Stassik had died. Nijinsky’s wife says he received the news with a strange smile. It was right after this that Nijinsky started his Diary, often writing furiously all night long, and producing drawing after drawing at an incredible speed, as if he felt he had limited time. Certainly now, he was cycling between the three aspects mentioned above, i.e.creative/wandering/destructive. 

He would run down the snowy slopes at incredible speed and control, and began to enter the very dangerous skeleton races, using a short sled without a steering mechanism. He had several near fatal accidents, not all due to the races.

Drawing by Nijinsky circa 1919

Nijinsky’s drawings were seen as a definite sign of madness. They were often circular or contained ‘eye’ shapes, which look to me like Vesica Pisces, a metaphysical symbol of birth; a doorway to another realm. The pieces available to us today show a modernist, often geometric and etherial beauty. During this time he began to keep silent, often unresponsive to conversation or direct questions.

I am the brain in the brain. I like to look closely in the mirror and 
I see only one eye in my forehead. – Nijinsky

On the day that he commenced his Diary, he was scheduled to dance in St. Moritz. On January 19, 1919, Nijinsky gave his last ‘performance’, but not his last dance. He told Romola that he wanted to express “the pangs of creation, the agony an artist has to go through when composing.” (A Leap Into Madness, 1991, Peter Ostwald, p170) She had no idea what he was talking about. 

Suvretta House, St. Moritz, Switzerland

Performed at Suvretta House, the piece began with Nijinsky sitting silently in a chair staring at the audience with cat-like eyes for perhaps 30 minutes. Then he unrolled a white bolt of velvet cloth and a black one, creating a giant cross on the floor. Standing at the front arm of the cross, with arms outstretched, he said to the audience, “Now I will dance you the war, the war which you did not prevent.” (Diary pXX) He improvised a violent solo, ending with something a little lighter (because he felt the audience did not like him), eliciting laughter from the stunned, uncomfortable audience. This is an early expression of what we call performance art; another first for Nijinsky.

In his Diary he writes of that day: “I felt God throughout the evening. He loved me. I loved Him. Our marriage was solemnized.” (Diary p7) He told Romola after the performance, “Today is the day of my marriage to God.” (Leap p179)

I am afraid of people because they want me to lead
the same kind of life as they do. – Nijinsky

His Diary is often stream of consciousness (not something familiar in the early 20th Century) as he tried to untangle deeply conflicted emotions about a variety of topics; sex, poverty, his past with Diaghilev, his relationship with his wife, eating meat, etc. Nijinsky was trying to understand what was happening to him. Portions of the Diary do sound like the ravings of a madman to the uneducated. The editor’s notes give great insight into what he is referencing, and so really, his Diary becomes an important document of someone choosing, in some way, to leave his past on the stage behind him, and rehearsing for one of the longest running character portrayals he would adopt: that of the lunatic.

A page from Nijinsky’s Diary

During these days at Villa Guardamunt Romola became friendly with a local athletics doctor, Hans Frenkel. We would call this speciality sports medicine today. He had attended a lecture at one point on the fledgling psychiatric profession and decided to try his hand at analyzing Nijinsky. He also administered chloral hydrate as a sedative which increases depression, something Nijinsky struggled with. (Leap p175)

Concurrently, Frenkel was having an affair with his client’s wife – Romola. Nijinsky writes in his journal that he feels something is going on. He developed, over time, a severe rage at even the mention of Dr. Frenkel’s name.

I do not want to give them my feelings because 
I know they will not understand me. – Nijinsky

After a month of Frenkel’s treatments Nijinsky was so thoroughly confused that he did start to wonder if he was going insane. (Leap p191). He writes, “My wife wants me to go to Zurich to see a specialist for nerves…..She wants to have a child, a little boy, a reincarnation of me, as she is afraid I will soon die. She thinks I am mad.” (Leap p194)

In early March 1919, Romola had her first consultation with Professor Bleuler in Zurich. Bleuler had recently coined the term ‘’schizophrenia”. They spoke for nearly two hours and the next day he had a consultation with Nijinsky. This is where the Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky ends, waiting for the train to Zurich. He writes, “I will observe everyone with complete detachment, and I will understand everything. I do not like knowing everything in advance, but God is showing me the way people live and therefore is warning me.” (Diary p226)

Bleuler said of Nijinsky that he had a very good intelligence, but was confused. He didn’t think Nijinsky should be hospitalized, but rather treated within the community. If he were housed with patients worse than himself, it could make matters worse for Nijinsky. Bleuler also advised Romola to leave Nijinsky and let him (Nijinsky) get on with his life as he saw fit. (Leap p197) It is now pointless to wonder, if she had actually taken his advice, would Nijinsky have indeed retreated so totally within himself if he had been allowed back around other artists and creatives rather than being completely isolated from his chosen field?

People must not think me. They must feel me and 
understand me through feeling – Nijinsky

Nijinsky felt his mission was to show people that thinking was the cause of all problems in the world and that they needed to feel. He knew his message would be opposed. Indeed, we are only just now coming to this awareness of the importance of feeling, or heart-knowing, rather than relying on intellectual-knowing only. His dance was all about feeling. He became each character he portrayed, and left a piece of himself on each stage, each night he performed, in his desire to accomplish his mission.

In his Diary Nijinsky writes: “I want to be God and therefore I work on myself. I want to dance. I want to draw. I want to play piano. I want to write verse. I want to compose ballets. I want to love everyone. This is the aim of my life.” 

Vaslav Nijinsky 1927

After his evaluation with Bleuler they returned to their hotel where upon Romola locked herself in her room. Nijinsky try to get in later, but she wouldn’t admit him. He then locked himself in his room and only let his breakfast be brought in to him the next morning. Romola says that he showed them a large knife and said he bought it for sharpening pencils. (Leap p199) Chaos ensued when Romola’s mother, who was with them to ‘help’ during this transition process, called the police who subsequently forced an entry into Nijinsky’s room. He exclaimed, “I am a man of the world and not accustomed to being treated this way!” An associate of Bleuler’s, Dr. Oberhoszer, was called in to examine him.

By 4 o’clock that afternoon Nijinksky was a patient of The Burgholzli, a Cantonal Hospital for well-to-do private patients. On March 10, 1919, he was transferred via train to Bellevue Sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. His discharge diagnosis was ‘catatonia’. It is to be noted that Dr. Frenkel accompanied Nijinsky on this trip, not Romola. 

The Earth will also be like Mars, but in several hundred years’ time….therefore,
I ask everyone to abandon factories…. – Nijinsky

Thus began a long series of various institutions, with intermittent stays ‘at home’ where he would invariably worsen. It would be years until Nijinsky saw a psychiatrist who actually spoke Russian. Nijinsky didn’t speak fluent French and often refused to speak that language at all. He spoke German even less well. It begs the question how he was communicated with as to what was going on within himself, what he was thinking, feeling, did he know what was happening to him, how did he feel about it, etc. 

Romola was his guardian now and ordered no visitors and no music for her husband. Written permission had to be obtained from her for any visitors who might want to see him. Romola was often in America and wouldn’t see her husband for three to four years at a time. He was isolated and alone, cycling between violent, dangerous outbursts, and catatonic stupor. He pulled out his hair, and scratched his face and hands until they bled. Now and again one of the staff would ask him to dance, and he would often be pleased to do so. Other times, he’d say, “Oh, I have lost the habit.” Once he was presented with a picture album of his dance days, and he pushed it away saying, “fini.” (Leap p279)

One of his doctors at one of the many hospitals where he stayed reports: “He (Nijinsky) doesn’t speak much, also doesn’t eat especially much; mood fairly good during the medical visit. Otherwise he sleeps a lot.” Over time the doctors found that if they let Nijinsky eat what he wanted (usually pastries – dancers always starve themselves to keep in dance shape, so he probably never ate these previously) his moods would improve. He gained weight and developed arteriosclerosis. When they put him on a diet he became less compliant. He had several heart attacks.

People like calm men. I am not a calm man. I love life.
I want life. I want to be believed. – Nijinsky

On June 14, 1920, Nijinsky’s second daughter, Tamara, was born. Romola says that Nijinsky held his daughter in his arms for a few hours and talked rationally. Then slowly returned to silence again. Tamara had been conceived in the hopes that another child might bring Nijinsky back. (Leap p261)

Romola with Kyra and baby Tamara, circa 1921

In 1921 Romola wrote to Bronia. Her letter had to be smuggled into Soviet Kiev via a friend. Bronia had a dance school there and was taking care of her mother as well as her two children, as a single parent. Romola entreated her to bring their mother to visit Nijinsky as he had been ill for a year and a half now. She hoped seeing them would effect a cure. 

Bronia, along with her mother and two children, were able to get out of Kiev, and taking various freight trains, six weeks later managed to travel the 657 miles from Kiev to Vienna. They arrived in May. 

The next day they went to Steinhoff Sanatorium to visit Nijinsky. Bronia was overwhelmed by a ‘great sorrow’ yet tried to appear relaxed and to engage with her brother in conversation. (Memoirs p 514) She told him of her work in Kiev teaching students his method so that they might dance his choreography. They all had great admiration for him even though they never had seen him dance. She rambled on and he remained impassive. However, when she said to him, “Would you believe, Vatsa, that with them (her students) I have already devised two ballets?”

I must say that I can see without eyes. I am feeling….
I am the spirit that carries Nijinsky’s body.- Nijinsky

Bronia relates: “Vaslav suddenly turned his head and looked straight into my eyes. He said very firmly, as if instructing me, “The ballet is never devised. The ballet must be created.” Vaslav’s beautiful eyes were sparkling, the sound of his dear voice rang in my ears, my heart brimmed over with hope. Words rushed from me; I was as excited and overjoyed as if a miracle had taken place before my eyes….but the spark of consciousness suddenly died. Vaslav was again staring into the distance, indifferent to everything around him.” (Memoirs p514/515)

In 1923 Diaghilev visited Nijinsky’s Paris apartment, wanting to draw him closer into the creative circle. Serge Lifar, Diaghilev’s lover, stated that Diaghilev had “never reconciled himself to Nijinsky’s misfortune, and never abandoned the hope that some shock might restore him to the world” (Leap p266) A shock was what he was hoping for now. During the course of their visit Diaghilev said, “Vatsa, you are being lazy. Come, I need you. You must dance again for the Russian Ballet and for me.” Nijinsky replied, “I cannot because I am mad.”

In 1924 Diaghilev made contact with Nijinsky again by inviting him to rehearsals of his sister’s ballet. When Nijinsky arrived, his appearance distressed the dancers, as he gazed into the distance with a half smile on his lips. Anton Dolin was the lead and attempting to learn Nijinsky’s dance secrets from Bronia. Nijinsky gave no response to The Train Bleu rehearsal, Bronia started to cry, and Romola eventually led him away. (Leap p267)

I live with God. People do not understand me. I came here to help. 
I want ‘Paradise’ on Earth. – Nijinsky

Some time later that same year, Anton Dolin asked Diaghilev if he would take him to meet Nijinsky. At first Diaghilev declined. As Diaghilev’s current lover, Dolin refused to eat for three days until Diaghilev changed his mind. Romola invited them to tea in their Paris apartment. 

During the visit Nijinsky mostly sat and laughed quietly. When Dolin asked him a direct question, Nijinsky replied, “Je ne sais pas (I do not know)”. Nijinsky let Diaghilev embrace him in leaving, and though at first he seemed resistant, put his hand on Dolin’s and kissed him three times, in the Russian way. Diaghilev asked if he could visit again, and Nijinsky just shook his head wistfully. (Leap 268)

Tamara Karsavina (in costume for the Ballerina Doll in Petrushka), Diaghilev and Nijinsky, 1928

In December 1928 Diaghilev visited Nijinsky for the last time – the latter was staying in a Paris nursing home at the time. He brought Nijinsky’s former ballet partner, Tamara Karsavina, for whom his second daughter was named. He also brought Serge Lifar. Lifar noted that Nijinsky “had the furtive look of a hunted beast, but otherwise seemed quite sane while speaking”. (Leap p273)

He was taken to the Paris Opera for a ballet performance in the hopes it might jolt him back here. After the performance Nijinsky kept saying that he did not want to leave the theater. But he was now a chronic invalid, and back to the nursing home he went. 

Diaghilev died in Venice the following August in a diabetic coma. The beautiful, grand days of the Ballet Russes were well and truly over. Nijinsky’s mother died in 1932. He was never told of these deaths for fear of what it might do to him. 

I looked at the sky and saw the stars, which started twinkling at me.
I felt the gaiety of the stars. – Nijinsky

Romola published her first biography of Nijinsky in 1934 entitled, Nijinsky. She absolutely did her part in making sure he was not forgotten. Although she saw events and circumstances through her own particular lens of reality, it is a valuable document nonetheless. This is the book I read in 1982, and it certainly captivated me. 

The first English translation of The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky was published by Romola in 1936. The book was heavily edited – about 40% by some estimates. Deleted were the things he said that were detrimental to Romola, mention of homosexuality, and other ‘offending’ subjects. The unexpurgated version was not available until 1995 and presented a very different experience. This is the version I have used in researching for this article. 

In 1937, a former acquaintance of Nijinsky’s, the Princess Norina Matchabelli, was concerned about him and asked her spiritual master, Meher Baba*, if he could effect a cure for Nijinsky. Meher Baba answered in the affirmative, but with the priviso that Nijinsky would have to come stay with him for several months. (Lord Meher, Bhau Kalchuri p1860, online edition) As this would be dependent upon Romola’s discretion, who knows if this information was ever conveyed to Nijinsky himself, or if he would have wanted to go.

Nijinsky with the dancer Serge Lifar at Munsingen Hospital 1939

In the same year his daughter, Kyra, visited him for the first time in over ten years. She was also a trained dancer and performed for her father who looked on with interest. Kyra felt she understood what her father said very well, and believed his mood swings were caused by environmental events (things happening around him), rather than internal disease. His demeanor would brighten when she was with him, and after she left he fell into a morose mood. (Leap p294)

1937 also saw the development of the use of insulin shock treatment in psychiatric care. The neurosurgical procedures lobectomy and lobotomy also became popular at this time. Romola wanted to try insulin-shock treatment with her husband, but delayed and went to America again. When she returned, Nijinsky started the ‘insulin cure’ on July 18, 1938, back at Bellevue Sanatorium, in Switzerland. He was 49 years old. 

I am the God who dies when he is not loved. 
God loves me and will give me life in death. – Nijinsky

As many are aware, new and promising treatments are often not fully tested before they are used on patients in hopes that the cherished hypothesis will become fact through repetition. This was true of insulin shock treatments of the 1930s. Dr. Manfred Sakel, was a specialist in the use of insulin in treating physiological excitements. The objective of insulin-shock treatment is the destruction of brain cells, hoping this will effect a cure in those who participate. This assumes that damage to the brain is actually therapeutic. (Leap p295) Romola was willing to do almost anything to get Nijinsky back to a ‘normal’ life.

The treatment was a rigorous 2 – 3 month period where the patient was kept in bed each morning 6 of 7 days a week. Breakfast was not eaten on treatment days, and a high dose of insulin was administered by injection. The recipient would begin to sweat, drool, become sleepy, then loose consciousness and go into a coma. After four hours the patient was ‘revived’ through a sugar solution via a tube in the stomach or injection.

A contemporary of Sakel’s described this procedure as akin to repairing a Swiss watch by using a hammer. (Leap p302)

Nijinsky endured 228 insulin shock treatments at two different Institutions. The first, Bellevue Sanatorium (48 treatments), until the director there refused to be a party to the treatments any longer. Then Nijinsky was moved to Munsingen Hospital (180 treatments). Without going into the lengthy details, there was no positive outcome. 

I am a man with a heart….and hope that I will develop my spirit very greatly.
I am no longer Nijinsky of the Ballet Russes. 
I am Nijinsky of God. – Nijinsky

Romola took Nijinsky to her mother’s villa in Budapest in July 1940. She and her mother did not get on well, and life was quite strained. In 1941 Germany invaded Russia and German troops were stationed in Budapest. Part of the villa where Nijinsky was living was requisitioned for military occupancy. Jews had to wear a yellow star and Romola’s step-father, though he converted to Catholicism decades previously, was required to wear one. Romola’s mother hid several of her Jewish friends in the villa. They lost most of their help because the staff did not want to live in a house with Jews. 

Romola and Nijinsky, 1947

These were terribly dangerous times, and under continuous stress and anxiety, Nijinsky became very violent and aggressive. It became so bad that he was taken to the local State Hospital, Lipotmezo, strapped into a straight jacket. It should be noted that the Nazis were not only rounding up Jews, but gypsies, homosexuals, and mental patients.

After three days in Lipotmezo, Romola signed Nijinsky out and they rented a cottage, hired a male nurse and moved near Lake Balaton away from the city. A fortuitous, unexpected meeting with Paul Bohus Vilagosi, a distant relation of Romola’s, probably saved their lives. He provided safety, money and connections at a time when it was most desperately needed. 

From May of 1943 Nijinsky spent about a year in St. John Community Hospital in Budapest. In 1944 Budapest came under bombardment and Paul was able to find someone to hide them in the hills close to the Austrian border – for a price. Nijinsky did very well here and was reported to be the most peaceful of all the refugees. He loved being in natural surroundings – this knowledge could have been an important consideration in the very beginning of his distress and subsequent treatment.

Nijinsky would be taken to the local psychiatric ward whenever Romola and Paul needed to go into Budapest to sell their jewelry or heirlooms. When they returned from one such excursion, suddenly there was a knock at the door. It was Nijinsky with his male attendant from the hospital. Notice had been given that all the inmates would be exterminated within 24 hours. Stan, the attendant, had gotten Nijinsky to safety within hours of death at great risk to himself. It was March 12, 1945. Nijinsky had just turned 56. They all got into the nearby caves to safety. 

I think often about the stars and therefore I know who I am. – Nijinsky

Not long after this the Russian troops arrived to liberate Budapest. Apparently when Nijinsky heard the language of his childhood, he became a different person. Listening to the music of the soldiers and their singing, he was able to approach them and actually joined in with their laughter and songs. Even Romola realized that all the doctors over the last 26 years did not have as good effect as this had on her husband.

The soldiers knew of Nijinsky who was legendary in Russia, of course. They were astonished when he turned up as a ragged refugee and wanted to dance and sing for him. Nijinsky at first would clap his hands as they did so, and then one evening he jumped up and began to whirl and dance! What an amazing event that must have been for everyone!

Ram Gopal, famous Indian dancer, gets to meet is idol, Nijinsky, 1947

Too soon they left for Vienna. The psychiatrist who examined Nijinsky there found him “unable to give fitting answers to questions.” Later in the spring they all moved into Schloss Mittersill in the mountains of Austria. Here Nijinsky was able to live fairly comfortably. Apparently he played a mean game of table tennis, looked strong, and walked with grace and dignity. He vacillated between calm and sweet, and mumbling irritably to himself. 

In late 1946 Romola visited Paris, leaving Nijinsky in the care of Paul, and his male nurse. In spring of the following year she went to London. They all left Austria in November 1947 for Zurich’s Brunner Sanatorium. Nijinsky’s physical exam showed high blood pressure and suspected kidney disease, with heart arrhythmia and signs of an enlarged heart. Some time later they moved to London.

During this time an old friend of Nijinsky, Nadine Legat, the widow of his former teacher in Russia came to visit him. She was 92. Romola reported: “For Nadia, Vaslav had never been ill. She felt that he was a genius, far ahead of us, on a different level of mentality, and that there was fundamentally nothing wrong with him.” (Leap p331)

Another examination in London showed that Nijinsky had generalized arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure. Lab results showed he had impairment in kidney function. It is noted by author Ostwald (former professor of psychiatry at University of California in San Francisco) that persistent hypertension can produce renal impairment, and so can insulin-shock treatments. The repeated induced insulin-comas damaged not only Nijinsky’s brain, but also his kidneys and heart. (Leap p334)

On April 2, 1950 Serge Lifar arrived in London to work on a documentary on Nijinsky with the BBC. It was remarked how fit he (Nijinsky) looked. The next day Nijinsky complained of a headache, but spent the afternoon at the Alexandra Palace watching Lifar and other dancers rehearse for their television program; later he signed autographs at a restaurant. In the evening Romola says he suddenly started moving his arms overhead as he had done in Le Spectre de la Rose decades ago. The next day, the 4th of April, he lay limp in bed. 

I do not want my handwriting to be admired. 
I want my ideas to be admired. – Nijinsky

Test results showed, on April 5th, that Nijinsky was in renal failure. By the next day he was in a coma. On April 7th, Good Friday, Nijinsky again made the arm movements reminiscent of those in Spectre. He said the Russian word, “Mamasha” a diminutive for mother. When people are getting ready to leave, often someone who had been dear to them in life comes to prepare them. 

The next day, Saturday, the 8th of April, Nijinsky seemed a little better and ate some breakfast. Romola, thinking all was well, went into the other room momentarily. Suddenly the male nurse shouted, and when Romola returned to the room, he was holding Nijinsky in his arms, saying, “Look, look!” Nijinsky had stopped breathing. He signed once and was gone. The official cause of death was “uremia with chronic nephritis.” (Leap 338)

Vaslav Nijinsky

A funeral Mass was held the following week with 500 people from all over the world in attendance. Those caught within the Soviet Union could not make it to London. St. James Church in Marylebone was packed and extra police were drafted to keep the crowds in check. The pallbearers were dancers Frederick Ashton, Michael Soames, Serge Lifar and Anton Dolin. Richard Buckle, founder of Ballet magazine in 1939 was also pallbearer, as was Cyril Beaumont, writer of numerous books on ballet. 

Cyril Beaumont was the only one of the six who had seen Nijinsky at his peak glory. He said after the funeral that the weight of Nijinsky’s coffin was almost intolerable for him to bear.

I worked hard, but later I lost heart because I noticed that I was not liked.
I withdrew so deep within myself that I could not understand people.
I wept and wept… – Nijinsky

Nijinsky was laid to rest in St. Marylebone Cemetery in Finchley Road, London. In 1953 Serge Lifar arranged to have him taken to Paris to be buried in a new grave in the Montmartre Cemetery. A Russian Orthodox priest presided and Bronia was able to attend this time. Nijinsky was placed next to the dancer whose mantle he wore so beautifully, Auguste Vestris (1760 – 1842). Lifar (1905 – 1986) in time would also be laid to rest beside these two great artists.

Monmartre Cemetery, Paris; Petrushka was Nijinsky’s favorite character

Romola lived until 1978 and died in Paul Bohus’ arms in Paris. She travelled widely including a visit to Russia where she had an ‘amusing’ interview with Krushchev. She went to Japan where she fell in love with a transvestite actress who resembled a young Nijinsky. She’d had many women lovers over the years. She also published The Last Years of Nijinsky (1952). Romola is buried in Montmartre Cemetery, but not close to her husband.

So, ended the life of Vaslav Nijinsky, a very misunderstood man, the greatest dancer of the last century; an Artist and sincere seeker of God. In Part 4 I will discuss the concept of insanity vs. sanity and how that may reflect upon our understanding of Consciousness generally, and our spiritual lives specifically.

All set-apart quotes attributed to Nijinsky are from The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky.

*Meher Baba was known for, among other things, his work with the God-Mad in India. The God-Mad are spiritually advanced souls stuck on the Planes who need the ‘push’ of a spiritual master in order to advance. Their inner state of bliss is so intense that it has rendered them mad for ordinary human purposes. Meher Baba made a point to find and contact as many of these individuals as he could during his lifetime. Among his followers, there has been conjecture as to whether Nijinsky may have been one of these God-Mad. It is important to note that in the West we do not have any idea of this particular spiritual status; nor does western science recognize spirituality as anything real. I do not necessarily believe that this was Nijinsky’s issue, I merely note it here as a matter of interest. To find out more about the God-Mad, see The Wayfarers, by Dr. William Donkin, who traveled on these tours with Meher Baba to help these people. 

The Dance of Truth Part 2

Vaslav Nijinsky

In Part 1 I wrote of my own involvement in dance, my interest in Nijinsky, and alluded to a sort of destiny appointment with him through transiting Pluto aspects to my natal moon. In Part 2 I will explore his early life and career using his birth chart and transits to illustrate pivotal points. As this is not intended to be a scholarly work, my citations appear as they do.

Please note that I am a sidereal astrologer, using the placements of the stars and planets where they actually are when one looks at the sky. If the Astro-jargon makes you glaze over, just ignore the technical details and take in the information it reveals. It is beyond the scope of this article to instruct readers in the astrological assessment of the birth chart.

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Vaslav Fomitch Nijinsky was born on March 12, 1889, in Kiev, in the Russian Empire (Ukraine) of Polish parents. His sister tells us that their mother often repeated that Vaslav was born in the caul”, (Early Memoirs, 1981, Bronislava Nijinska p12) something that is very rare, and presages greatness. 

A young Nijinsky in his practice clothes

Online I found that there were at least three different years, two different dates, and two different times associated with his birth. This vagueness feels linked to the chameleon glamour of his character portrayals and indicates that no one can really decide who he was nor pin him down in any concrete way – try as they might. He embodied each character portrayal fully loosing himself in each role, and when not onstage could be somewhat of a blank slate according to some who were in a position to have an opinion.

However, we do have his journals in which he states twice in 1919, when writing them, “I am 29,” (Diary p19) and further says, “I was born in 1889” (Diary p236). I wonder if some feel he didn’t know how old he was nor when he was born, which is absurd. I believe him. 

Nijinsky had two siblings: an older brother, Stanislav (Stassik), and younger sister, Bronislava (Bronia), also a ballet dancer. Stanislav fell out of a third-floor window when Nijinsky was still a baby, survived but was never the same afterwards. By the time he was a teen, Stanislav had to be placed in an asylum. Nijinsky, like David Bowie in our time, who also had an institutionalized brother, was always fearful of his own potential insanity.

Looking at his chart it is painful to see such a remarkable destiny paired with opposition, destructive choices, and outer (subconscious) obstruction at every turn. Not everyone with these placements would exhibit similar life patterns. A chart only shows tendencies and there is a broad scope of how these tendencies may play out. We have many witnesses, through books, who can tell us exactly how these tendencies showed up for Nijinsky. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Nijinsky’s North Node (hereafter NN), or destiny point, is at the very top of his chart in 9th area of life Gemini. The moon, (mind, deep feeling and sensitivity) is in the 10th area Cancer and conjunct the NN. This is someone who will communicate strongly through their chosen field; someone who is deeply, perhaps painfully, sensitive and possibly prone to paranoia, deep hurt and a nervous disposItion. Also in Cancer are his Mid-Heaven conjunct natal Saturn in the 10th: a career where discipline will be of paramount importance. I cannot immediately think of any other career at that time so exacting as that of a classical ballet dancer.

12th house Uranus points toward institutions (and being institutionalized) and the subconscious generally being a big potential issue this life. Uranus is square his NN which indicates a destiny that is unique, a lightning flash of genius, and an innovator. It was realized 20 years after his death that he was actually the father of Modern Dance. Nothing like the four ballets he choreographed had ever been seen before. 

Nijinsky’s parents were both dancers making a living by touring a circuit of various entertainment venues, and he first began ballet classes with them as his teachers. At the age of 9 Nijinsky entered the Imperial Theatrical School (a respected institution) and joined the lofty ranks of other students such as Mikhail Fokine, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina and Georgiy Balanchivadze, or George Balanchine as he became better known. 

Bronislava Nijinska, a dancer-choreographer in her own right.

Bronislava was devoted to her brother, joined the Ballet Russes and toured with him. In her teaching career she taught Nijinsky’s technique and style to her students. It seems that she was the only one who understood what he was attempting with his art. Nijinsky was a typical good big brother of the times and looked after Bronia with regard to appropriate suitors – not always to her liking.

Nijinsky’s father left the family for his pregnant mistress when Vaslav was about 8, and poverty was then a big issue. Even before graduating the Imperial Theatrical School, Nijinsky was lauded as a prodigy, and upon entry into the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet (another respected institution), became a coryphée, which was a rank above where most start, in the corps de ballet. He was soon promoted to soloist.

as Albrecht in Giselle

Nijinsky danced many of the famous classical ballets, often partnering the great Anna Pavlova: Raymonda, Giselle, Le Pavillion d’Armide, Sleeping Beauty (unforgettable as The Blue Bird) (Memoirs p209), La Bayadere, Les Sylphides, and more. 

According to Joan Acocella in her fine introduction to the unexpurgated Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky, Russia at that time did a heavy sex trade with ballet dancers, whose ‘patrons’ helped advance their ‘protégé’s’ careers (The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky, 2006, p.VIII). At the age of 18, Vaslav entered into probably his first such relationship with Prince Lvov who in turn gave the Nijinsky family much needed financial assistance.

Nijinsky was raised a Roman Catholic and had exposure to the Russian Orthodox Church as well. At a very young age questioned the necessity of the priesthood and felt rather he himself would speak to God directly (Memoirs p158). His wife mentions in her biography of him that as a teen he had wanted to be a monk –  that he had always had a spiritual inclination (Diary pXVII).

He expressed in his Diary extreme discomfort and guilt around masterbation (which he willed himself to discontinue), his homosexual relations, and his use of prostitutes both before and after marriage. He had Pluto and Neptune in his 8th area of Taurus, so this comes as no surprise. Neptune often presents a confusion in the area of life in which it appears in the birth chart and Pluto represents deep underworld taboos and obsessions. The 8th area deals with sex, death, deep truths, the occult, and secrets. 

His Mercury in the 5th area Aquarius, (unique and ahead of his time in creative communication and mental processes) is square Neptune (confusion/delusion/illusion and also dreams/visions/revelations). He was known for not being able to adequately verbally communicate what he required of the dancers to whom he was teaching his unique choreography. There often ensued, according to first-hand accounts, screaming rages of frustration. 

Nijinsky’s difficulty in getting across what he envisioned has been tentatively attributed to dyslexia along with the possibility of a type of stammering (Leap p.188), though his sister does not mention such an obvious issue in her memoirs. But what Nijinsky did communicate, through movement, was said to have been absolutely unique. He was soon hailed as The God of Dance, and called the Eighth Wonder of the World. 

An astrological fine point here is that Nijinsky’s moon is in the Vedic Nakshatra* of Pusha ruled by the Gods of the Gods and is under Saturn’s influence. This indicates a difficult childhood, but also someone who has a deep sense of who they are, a potential spiritual leader and truth teller; someone that may have little patience with people and perhaps could be more humble. But this is a very blessed placement, and echos the worldly epithet of The God of Dance.

There is no great genius without a touch of dementia. – Seneca

Prince Lvov ‘introduced’ the young dancer to many others, and in 1908 the impresario Sergei Diaghilev became Nijinsky’s lover and companion for the next five years. Nijinsky states in his diary that Lvov “forced me to be unfaithful to him with Diaghilev because he thought that Diaghilev would be useful to me. I was introduced to Diaghilev by telephone.” (Diary pIX)

It seems clear in Nijinsky’s Diary that he did what he had to do to survive: “I trembled like an aspen leaf” he states of his first sexual encounter with Diaghilev. “I hated him, but I put up a pretense, for I knew my mother and I would starve to death….I realized one had to live and therefore it did not matter to me what sacrifice was made.” (Diary p104)

Nijinsky with Sergei Pavolvitch Diaghilev

Prior to meeting Nijinsky, Diaghilev brought a variety of Russian art to the West via Paris. For the 1909 season ballet was the next art form to be introduced back to the country where it had originally been created. La Saison Russe premiered May 19, and was so successful that a permanent company was formed. 

Bronia captures the moment as she watches her brother’s first Paris performance from the wings: “While Nijinsky waits onstage holding his pose, his whole body is alive with an inner movement, his whole being radiant with inner joy – a slight smile on his lips….his long neck bound by a pearl necklace…. a light quivering of his small expressive hands among the lace cuffs. This inspired figure of Nijinsky captivates the spectators, who watch him spellbound, as if he were a work of art, a masterpiece.” (Memoirs p270)

Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose

Thus the great Ballet Russes was born, the most glamorous and avant garde theatre company of the time, and Nijinsky was its star. He brought the declining male ballet dancer (male parts often were danced by female dancers) back into prominence with explosive artistic aplomb!

As the lead male dancer of the Ballet Russes, Nijinsky danced many new ballets: Scheherazade (as the Golden Slave), Narcisse, Le Dieu Bleu, Le Festin, Le Spectre de la Rose (created specially for him), and Petruska (said to have been his favorite character portrayal). (A Leap Into Madness, 1991, Peter Ostwald, p47).

as the golden slave in Scheherazade

Nijinsky was a diminutive 5 feet 4 inches tall with a slender torso and massive thighs. But he had tremendous upper body strength, too; he worked with weights and could lift 72 lbs with one arm. (Memoirs, p400) With large, dark eyes rimmed in thick lashes, and sensuous lips, he embodied the androgyne incredibly well. Reactions to his dancing were never ambivalent. Those who witnessed his art often compared his movements to an animal – “he seemed ‘half cat, half snake, fiendishly agile, feminine and yet wholly terrifying’; ‘undulating brilliantly like a reptile’, ‘a stallion, with distended nostrils’, ‘I never saw anything so beautiful.” (Leap p42) 

Once he was asked how he appeared to stay up in the air a little bit longer than seemed natural. Nijinsky replied, “No! No! Not difficult. You have just to go up and then pause a little up there.” (Leap p34)

Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those
who could not hear the music. -Friedrich Nietzsche

I once lived with a brilliant man who thought it very natural to astral travel. He said to me, “you just have to project yourself up into the corner of the room and then take off”. He fully believed that everyone knew how to do this. This, like Nijinsky’s explanation, is remarkable in that the person does not realize that they have any unusual skill. 

There is so much written about Nijinsky’s dancing, the ballets he performed and so forth. It is way beyond the scope of this article to fully give any kind of suitable and satisfying attention to it. You can delve into his life in any number of excellent publications. I will briefly touch upon the four ballets he choreographed, three of which he starred in. 

Nijinsky’s first choreography was L’Apre-midi d’un Faune (The Afternoon of the Faune premiered May 29,1912, at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris). Set in ancient Greece, it is the story of a ‘mythical’ faune being attracted to a nymph who declines his advances, and featured an ‘orgasm’ at the end of the performance. 

Poster for the Ballet Russes 1912 Season by Leon Bakst

The steps and shapes the dancers made broke completely with tradition in Faune. Bronia was the only one who understood what he was trying to do and even she found it very challenging to execute the choreography. Faune is the only ballet of Nijinsky’s that survives intact as he originally created it. He worked to fully notate this particular ballet during his incarceration in Budapest during WW1, and so we fortunately have the original form he intended.

Nijinsky and Bronia in L’Apres-midi d’un Faune

Bronia played the sixth nymph, and Nijinsky the principle male, in Faune. Even though she was always very close to her brother, when she saw him dance, he became something else altogether. We read in her Early Memoirs: “Before my eyes was le dieu de la danse…. Nijinsky is onstage, and he extends upwards, a barely perceptible quiver runs through his body; his left hand close to his face, he seems to be listening to sounds, only heard by him, which fill all his being. He radiates an inner force that by its very radiance envelops the theatre, establishing a complete rapport with the audience.” (Memoirs, p517)

His second ballet, entitled Jeux (Games, premiered May 15, 1913), a danced poem, was set on a tennis court, danced in modern sports clothing (never done before), and was the story of a menage a’trois. Originally it was supposed to feature three men, but was changed (by whom, is not recorded) to one man (Nijinsky) and two women. Both of these first two ballets were choreographed to music by Debussy with set designs by Leon Bakst.

The third ballet Nijinsky choreographed was to Stravinsky’s original score, Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring, premiered May 29,1913) with scenery and costumes by the artist/explorer Nicholas Roerich. What a magnificent collection of talent the Ballet Russes had at its disposal! The choreography created much dismay among the dancers when in rehearsals because it was the opposite of everything they’d learned: feet turned in, dancers stayed close to the ground; it was pronounced ‘ugly’. 

The inspiration came from Russian pagan primitivism. It is the story of a ‘tribe’ celebrating the annual renewal of life, and culminates with a chosen maiden to dance herself to death. At the premier in Paris, the audience so disliked what they were seeing and hearing, they rioted; the police were called. Nijinsky had to scream tempo to the dancers from the wings so they could keep time as the noise was louder than the orchestra. Prior to curtain, they were told to keep dancing no matter what – there was definitely an inkling as to the reception of such an innovative piece. It ran for only 9 performances – only 4 in Paris. A year later when World War One exploded upon the world stage, this ballet was seen as a direct expression of the subconsciously felt nihilism and chaos that was manifesting into 3D reality.

Move through, rather than to, the music. – Nijinsky

Nijinsky’s fourth and final staged choreography was Til Eulenspiegel, based on the story of a German fool in the 1300s who bothers the townsfolk so much with his mischievousness, that he is finally hung. Richard Strauss supplied the music, and Robert Edmond Jones, was the set designer. Nijinsky danced the lead on October 23, 1916 in New York City. Til Eulenspiegel was never performed by Nijinsky anywhere but during the 1916/17 ballet season in America. One notable thing about this production was that it was unfinished at premier, and had to be improvized in parts – the first improvisational ballet at the time!

As long as Nijinsky was dancing with nothing else encumbering him, he was healthy (Sun in 6th area Pisces). The Sun is our vitality, that which we need to thrive. Pisces is the dancer. He also had Mars in Pisces – drive and motivation, but also enemies. He was certainly born to dance, and he certainly had many who were jealous and resentful of is abilities, and who took pains to express this whenever possible. His Mars also opposed Uranus in the 12th: a set up if ever there was one for the unconscious to come forth as inexpressible desire which may manifest as sudden onset of illness (6th area) as a consequence. In Ostwald’s book, A Leap Into Madness, this had been common since childhood.

Nijinsky’s natal Sun is in the nakshatra Purva Bhadrapada. Purva Bhadrapada is the apex of Jupiter energy, a yang energy. The sun is also yang energy and Nijinsky has Mars (more yang) also in Pisces (but not in Purva Bhadrapada). The fierceness of this collective energy can produce a powerful spiritual pull and selflessness without expectation of reward. Nijinsky ruminates on these things in Diary. Dance was his spiritual path. He performed for the Ballet Russes without pay for years. It was only later  that Romola, his wife, wrangled payment from Diaghilev for her husband. Later when dance was denied him, his soul withered.

A curious aspect of Purva Bhadrapada is that it relates to the activities of adepts and spiritual masters which are difficult to understand from our material perspective. It presents the energy that the observer is unable to understand if the person in question, in this instance, Nijinsky, is a spiritual being, a con-artist or just crazy. No one understood him on any level. 

Nijinsky also loved photography, but he realized he needed to focus on dance.

This is exactly the dilemma Nijinsky was inevitably faced with. The jealousy and rage flung against him was projection at a time when that complex was little understood. And there is also the spiritual benefit, through the conflicts that Purva Bhadrapada brings, that one can annihilate the ego and the person turns toward Enlightenment. Not a pleasant, easy Sun position to have, but ultimately rewarding from a spiritual perspective.

I don’t feel that choreography was as nourishing to Nijinsky as dancing certainly was, though he was obviously talented and innovative in this area. His inability to express himself clearly was a huge handicap. He could demonstrate what he wanted, but the movements were so counter to what a classically trained dancer was used to, it looked to everyone too bizarre. Nijinsky was very sensitive to being seen in a negative light, and found it frustrating to know that virtually no one understood him or his art. This is common for artists and creatives generally, but for him it was not just uncomfortable, it was crippling. 

Nijinsky’s nodal axis is worth mentioning here to set the stage for the next ‘act’: His NN as I said denotes a 10th area destiny – public notice. The NN is the life’s compass point, something new to accomplish, and Nijinsky’s was in the area of career and public personae. 

The South Node (hereafter SN), always precisely opposite the NN, indicates where we’ve been, what is familiar; past life experiences we’ve already got down. When one is stressed, one typically heads toward SN experiences when what more productively should be happening is moving toward the NN experiences. It is counter to one’s intuitive feeling because we want soothing when we’re under stress not challenging, unfamiliar experiences. His SN is in 4th area Capricorn: safe, structured home and family. That is what he was seeking, but not what he should have been going toward. His life was a mobile one of the theatre: living in hotels and never in one place permanently. It is very difficult to raise a family on the road as his parents discovered. When one habitually heads toward or lives in the SN experience, one will always feel they are spinning their wheels and not getting anywhere. 

In August of 1913 Nijinsky and the Ballet Russes headed to South America – without Diaghilev. Diaghilev stayed in Europe because he was supposedly afraid of death by drowning. Nijinsky would be without his familiar protector, lover and helper in a new place and situation for the first time. Even though he felt controlled by Diaghilev, he was always taken care of and didn’t have to deal with the mundane realities of life. The feelings of relief and freedom may have been somewhat intoxicating and the stress may have increased his longing for a home and family, which he sorely missed in Russia.

Romola de Pulszky

Enter Romola de Pulszky. She was the daughter of a famous Hungarian actress mother, and politician father . She was what we would call these days, a groupie of the Ballet Russes. Once she saw Nijinsky dance in her hometown of Budapest in Carnaval, she called off her engagement and set her sights on him, always arranging to be wherever he was dancing in Europe. Therefore, Romola was on board The Avon to Buenos Aires sans Diaghilev, and was formally introduced to Nijinsky on the voyage out. After only a month’s acquaintance, Nijinsky proposed. They did not speak a common language, and had to use an interpreter! They married soon after they entered port.

Dance is the hidden language of the Soul – Martha Graham

Nijinsky’s marked decline, in my opinion, started with his decision to marry on September 10, 1913. This is the date that I felt absolutely corroborated the birth chart data I finally chose (I hadn’t yet read Nijinsky’s own mention of his age and year of birth). Transiting Uranus opposed his natal moon (sudden, unexpected, sometimes catastrophic, events triggering deep feeling and rash decisions) while transiting Neptune (illusion, delusion and confusion) was conjunct his natal moon, making this seem like a good idea at the time. Transiting Pluto was semi-sextile his natal moon and transiting Neptune: a potentially transformative time, and definitely a transforming event. This date, for me, is the turning point, the defining choice of the rest of his life. Nijinsky realized after only a few days that his marriage was a huge mistake, but he couldn’t take it back. He was Catholic, after all, and divorce in those days was not seen as it is today.

The events that Nijinsky’s marriage then triggered completed his break from Diaghilev, the man who organized everything in Nijinsky’s life. He states in his Diary, “I was afraid of him (Diaghilev) because I knew that all of practical life was in his hands.” (Diary p103). Nijinsky received a telegram letting him know that his services were no longer required. It was not even signed by Diaghilev, but by the regisseur of the company. A double insult. (Memoirs p482) No longer associated with the Ballet Russes left him out on his own, and no other ballet company was doing anything other than the old style of classical ballet. There could be no artistic explorative innovation for him except in the Ballet Russes.

Perhaps he felt that by marrying Romola, he could escape his feeling of being utterly under Diaghilev’s control. Bronia says their relationship was already worn thin as Nijinsky strained to reach for artistic sovereignty before this voyage. Nijinsky wrote to Stravinsky later about how upset he was when Diaghilev had fired him. Stravinsky remarked that Nijinsky’s letter to him was “a document of such astounding innocence – if Nijinsky hadn’t written it, I think only a character in Dostoievsky might have.” (Diary pXV)

Little did Nijinsky know, that through his marriage he had set in motion events that would change the course of his life and career for the very worst. Years later when Romola was planning to institutionalize him, Nijinsky said to her, “Femmka (little wife), you are bringing me my death-warrant”. But in a very real way, that had already happened. 

He hardly ever spoke to anyone, and seemed to exist
on a different plane.” – Lydia Sokolova, Nijinsky’s dance partner

One option for Nijinsky now that he was no longer a part of the Ballet Russes was to return to Russia. Kaiser Wilhelm was fomenting war, and the Russian Imperial army would not give Nijinsky a deferral from the military. Taking this option, he faced three years of infantry service!

It has already been stated that the option of joining another ballet company was not a possibility. They would have been too restrictive and conservative for Nijinsky’s vast, expanding creativity.

The third option would be to start his own company and that is what he attempted. He’d had an offer to perform for 8 weeks at the Palace Theatre in London, a vaudeville theatre. This was an unwelcome compromise for Nijinsky who considered himself, and rightly so, a fine artist, not an entertainer. It was after a period of crippling indecision, and depression that he decided to take this option. Given that he was a dancer-choreographer with no experience organizing and running a ballet company, this is another glaringly questionable choice he made. 

Bronia and her husband left the Ballet Russes after discovering that most of her roles had been given to another dancer thereby breaking her contract. They came to London immediately to dance and help with the monumental task at hand. Rehearsals went well, but from the opening night onward the Nijinsky Season was beset by long-simmering petty resentments, law suits, and the owner of the theater insisting on including Russian folks dances in the repertoire. By the second week Bronia noted how tired Vaslav looked. “He danced as superbly as ever. But even so I noticed that the usual spark, the enthusiasm that always filled his being, the elation felt in each dancing movement, was no longer there.” (Memoirs, p505) This will have marked the first outwardly visible commencement of Nijinsky’s retreat inward. 

The engagement resulted in Nijinsky’s illness, and his first ‘breakdown’. He found himself in breech of contract for missing 3 consecutive days of appearances due to high fever, and lost his place at the theatre. This was the spring of 1914, and transiting Mars was bearing down on Nijinsky’s NN in 9th area Gemini (a destiny appointment of impulsive energies).

One of the big impediments Nijinsky always faced was communication issues. He only spoke Russian fluently, and therefore often didn’t understand the ‘fine print’ of contractual language. He knew he could miss three days of performance during his run at the Palace Theatre, but hadn’t realized that they could not be contiguous days.

An American newspaper report of April 4, 1914, stated that Nijinsky’s illness was “much more serious than is generally realized….He is said to be suffering from a nervous breakdown, induced by overwork in the planning and rehearsing of new dances.” (Leap p113) Romola was also seven months pregnant.

The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long. – Blade Runner

There were some private performances, and an offer to be artistic advisor as well as dancer, for the Paris Opera four months out of the year from 1915 through 1917. The contract stipulated that he could not dance on any other stage other than the Theatre National de l’Opera. Other clauses troubled him, too, and negotiations were ultimately unfruitful. Nijinsky was now beset by depression, fear, sleeplessness and was clearly wary of being chained to restrictive contractual conditions given his precarious state of health. 

He and Romola went to Vienna, and there Nijinsky’s first daughter, Kyra, was born in June 1914 (Leap p125). He became so absorbed in the child, that everything else ceased to exist for him. He lived exclusively in that world for a time. The family moved to Budapest where Romola’s mother and step father lived. In August World War One broke out, and as a Russian citizen, Nijinsky became a prisoner of war. Under house arrest, he had to report to the authorities weekly. This was his ‘world’ for the next 18 months.

Nijinsky and daughter, Kyra

During Nijinsky’s incarceration, Diaghilev, the American Embassy, the Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria-Hungary, the King of Spain Alfonso XIII, and Pope Benedict XV all made effort for his release. Nijinsky and his family were eventually allowed to leave Budapest and subsequently moved to Vienna in January of 1916. Jupiter in Aquarius was trining the NN destiny point positively expanding what it touches, and quintile natal Uranus in the 12th area of the subconscious and imprisonment. This line up signaled his release from house arrest in Hungary and freedom to dance once again.

Great dancers are great because of their passion.
-Martha Graham

He now began planning his next ballet, Till Eulenspiegel, and connected with Richard Strauss in Vienna to provide the music. At this point Nijinsky only had a diagnosis of neurasthenia (nervous weakness) with depressive states. It is thought he may have been cycling in and out of depression for some time before ‘going mad’ (not a technical term).

An interesting quote from A Leap Into Madness (p134) follows: “As long as an exalted state of mind provides fulfillment and leads to successful achievement, it seems unwarranted to call it an illness. But when a manic or depressive episode results in maladaptive behavior and leads to breakdown, it must be clinically evaluated and treated.” 

What this is saying, in essence, is that as long as you ‘produce’ something deemed to be valuable to others you can act as crazy as you wish without consequence. But as soon as you stop producing work that is seen as useful to the greater whole, you will be diagnosed as a lunatic. Is there a real definition of sane vs. insanity? Or is it actually a spectrum of bandwidth with an arbitrary criteria, depending on how many others reside in one’s particular bandwidth, that decides one’s diagnosis. Part 4 will address this topic.

Nijinsky driving in America, most probably New York

Nijinsky, with the Ballet Russes, crossed the Atlantic in March of 1916 bound for New York City, arriving April 4th. They would be performing at the Metropolitan Opera, as well as some private performances. There was a delay as Romola negotiated fees for Nijinsky with Diaghilev for the American tour (he had not yet been paid for two years of work with the Ballet Russes prior to his being dismissed in 1913). Finally the premier of the Ballet Russes in America occurred on April 12th. The US tour was an artistic success, but not a financial one. 

On many an occasion when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my spirit soar
and become one with everything that exists. – Michael Jackson

It was during this time that Nijinsky made friends with two Russian dancers who re-introduced him to the philosophy of Leo Tolstoy. They discussed the fine points deeply and Nijinsky began to dress in less formal attire, became a vegetarian, practiced sexual abstinence, and felt a desire to return to Russia and get back to the land. This distressed Romola so much, as she did not intend to live like a peasant, that she actually left Nijinsky for a short time. They reunited before returning to Europe and the war. 

Till Eulenspiegel era (1916), possibly rehearsals in New York

The Ballet Russes arrived in Spain in March of 1917. There were performances in Madrid and then Nijinsky got a two month holiday while the rest of the company went on to Italy and France. Nijinsky fell in love with the Gypsy flamenco dances he saw there and wanted to incorporate them into his repertoire of postures and gestures. He was taken to a bull fight, but as they got close, Nijinsky’s eyes were terribly distressed and he said, “Let’s go back. I couldn’t stand that.” This was seen, at that time, as the first signs of madness. 

At the end of March 1917 transiting Uranus in Capricorn trined his natal Uranus in 12th area Virgo. This aspect can make one seem irresponsible as one rapidly and intensely changes to reach one’s goals (whatever one perceives those to be). It is a very rebellious energy that happens around the age of 28 for everyone. During this transit one begins to deeply question what one has been told and life can seem very inadequate in view of the internal changes taking place. 

Nijinsky’s first Saturn Return was also in progress during this time and was exact in July 1918. This is often a challenging time of reassessing goals, priorities and the basic structure of our lives, as we step into more maturity (whatever that means for the individual). 

In Vedic Astrology there is an approximately 7.5-year event called the Sade Sati which involves Saturn and the moon. It commences when Saturn enters the constellation prior to the one the natal moon is in, and ends when Saturn leaves the constellation that follows the moon’s natal placement. At the time of this writing I am in my second Sadi Sati with 3 years yet to go. It is entirely and wholly challenging. My life has completely changed from what it was prior to commencement in 2017.

Nijinsky began his first Sade Sati in July 1914 (his daughter was born in June, a big additional responsibility) as transiting Saturn entered Gemini in his 9th area of life. Later, transiting Saturn conjuncted his natal Moon September 1916 and his natal Saturn, as stated above (the ‘return’), in July 1918. Transiting Saturn left Leo for good in August 1921, completing this massive transformative process. You can see by what happened to him during this period, how transformative it was for him, having come on the heels of his marriage which set the entire chain of events in motion. From being regarded worldwide as the premier male dancer, seeing the fraying edges begin to come further undone, to being institutionalized – all within that 7.5-year period!

Meanwhile, back in Spain in 1917, Romola organized a liaison between her husband and the Duchess of Durcal who was infatuated with Nijinsky. He was very upset with this and said to her mournfully, “I am sorry for what I did. It was unfair to her as I am not in love, and the added experience, that perhaps you wanted me to have, is unworthy of us.” (Leap p159) This was probably also seen as a sign of impending lunacy.

At this point Nijinsky just wanted a long rest but Diaghilev had him contracted to more performances and he couldn’t get out of it. The Ballet Russes returned to South America for another tour. I wonder if, when you read all this, you are getting a deja vu of a ‘rock star’ being milked for all he’s worth until he drops dead or looses his mind. Exactly so. Nijinsky did even this before anyone else.

When you dance, you can enjoy the luxury of being you.” – Paulo Coelho

It was during this tour that people began to take Nijinsky’s deteriorating condition seriously. He was very anxious and nervous; he visibly shook and profusely sweated when he was so. Before a performance he procrastinated interminably, pacing up and down on the stage before curtain. Finally the stage director was so fed up, he had the curtain raised whereupon Nijinsky fled into the wings in full view of the audience. The director shouted at him to start dancing! Nijinsky performed flawlessly. The company left South America for Europe on September 26, 1917.

On the voyage back to Europe Nijinsky designed a new rural home in Russia for his family with the hopes to be able to finally live a simple, quiet life (the spinning wheels of the SN). Before landing in Europe, news of the recent Soviet takeover was received. There was no going home for him now. The Nijinsky’s moved to mountainous St. Moritz, Switzerland (Nijinsky hated the mountains – he preferred open vistas). In December of 1917 he signed a one-year lease on the beautiful Villa Guardamunt situated on the alpine slopes.

Nijinsky and Romola

In Part 3 I will cover Nijinsky’s journal writing, and institutionalization; the next 30 years of his life.

*Nakshatra – a Vedic Astrological term. Each of the 12 constellations along the ecliptic are further divided into 27 segments of 13° 20’ each and are aligned with a particular fixed star. This gives greater detail when reading a chart.