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.
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.
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 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.
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)
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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.