nijinsky: the god of dance

Nijinsky-illo_2559485bJames Davidson reviews Nijinsky by Lucy Moore at The London Review of Books:

In 1910, the god of the dance returned to Paris. This time he starred in Schéhérazade. The fun-loving Queen Zobéide, played by the extraordinary-looking Ida Rubinstein, cajoles the chief eunuch to open the doors of the harem ‘to admit the hordes of black slaves’. Nijinsky, the queen’s favourite slave, is brought on in a golden cage wearing gold harem pants and covered in bracelets and jewels: ‘The whiteness of his gleaming teeth was accentuated by his strange blueish-grey make-up.’ The eunuch is terrorised into unlocking the cage: ‘His bare torso twisted in the fervour and excitement of his new-found freedom, like a cobra about to strike.’ He leaps on Zobéide like a wild panther: the sight of ‘his half-snake, half-panther movements, winding himself around the dancing Zobéide without ever touching her was breathtaking’, Nijinska wrote. But the orgy is discovered and ends in a massacre: ‘The dark slave falls, and in his last spasm his legs shoot upwards; he stands on his head and rotates his lifeless body – Nijinsky made a full pirouette standing on his head – before dropping to the ground with a heavy thud.’ Schéhérazade was the sensation of the 1910 season; soon ‘peacock tail’ colours and chiffons influenced by the Ballets Russes designer Léon Bakst were appearing in all the collections of the maisons de couture and fashionable ladies started wearing turbans.

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