the forgotten choreography of Bronislava Nijinska, the woman who pioneered movement in dance — The Calvert Journal

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The extreme political ferment of 20th century Russia’s early decades permeated every sphere of life and culture. The realism and classicism in painting, music, and architecture inherited from Belle Epoque Europe were thrown out and replaced by the avant-garde; abstraction, angularity, and disruption of form were the new order of the day. Ballet was no different, and dancer and choreographer Bronislava Nijinska, a Minsk-born Pole, was an instrumental force in redirecting the choreographic cannon towards a vision of process and motion. Despite her pioneering choreography, Nijinska’s legacy is often overshadowed by that of her brother, ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky. An artist of prodigious talent, Vaslav’s dancing career was cut short by mental illness, but he remains remembered as one of the greatest male dancers of the 20th century.

The Nijinsky name, however, does not belong to him alone. In an era where static positions were the marrow of classical dance, Nijinska envisioned a modernist ballet, one which saw focus shift towards the movement which connected these positions. Ultimately, she believed it was not the final posture that encapsulated the beauty of ballet, but the spaces in between.

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