Academic journal article International Journal of Communication Research

Citizen of Europe: Nijinsky in Quest for Identity in till L'espiègle by téo Spychalski

Academic journal article International Journal of Communication Research

Citizen of Europe: Nijinsky in Quest for Identity in till L'espiègle by téo Spychalski

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The quest for identity is rooted in the depths of human nature. Every individual is torn between his various identities and affiliations while he is constantly pursuing the path in search for his inner self. Every human being has his own commitments in various areas of life. These commitments define, position and situate him, and often determine his choices. Even if community roots1 nowadays have less of a hold over the individual and he progressively gets rid of heavy social burden imposed by centuries of tradition, it is not certain that he feels freer and, what is more important perhaps, happier now than in an orthodox society. Moreover, it is, paradoxically, this liberation, or uprooting, which causes, directly or indirectly, many of identity issues.

Without delving into the details of Nijinsky's biography, we would like to recall only the facts related directly to the subject of our topic, that is, the quest for identity2. Vaslav Nijinsky was born to Polish parents - Tomasz Nizyñski and Eleonora Bereda - on 12 March 1890, in Kiev, in the Ukraine territory. He was brought up in Russia, in Saint Petersburg, where his mother moved after the divorce; at home Vaslav spoke Polish, outside of home Russian was omnipresent, so he did not manage to master either of the languages. That is why he chose to express himself through dance, a universal means of communication, accompanying people throughout human history. Exceptionally talented, at the age of ten, Nijinsky entered the school of dance at the Imperial Theatre in Saint Petersburg where his artistic genius could fully blossom. Nonetheless, too young and too good to be accepted by the specific milieu of the Imperial Theatre, unable to communicate freely, regarded as "stranger", Nijinsky was left at the margin of the artists' troupe, alone in a hostile group of well-known dancers recognized not only in Russia but all over Europe and in the world. Lacking the moral support from his mother, who could barely make ends meet, the young artist fell into the arms of a rich impresario, homosexual, Serge Diaghilev, his future master and lover. This acquaintance enabled Nijinsky to accelerate his artistic career, but, at the same time, made him unhappy because he loved women as well. During a tour in South America, in 1913, he fell in love with Romola de Pulszky who became his wife and with whom he had two daughters. The break with Diaghilev did not stop the artistic career of the famous dancer, but undoubtedly accelerated the development of his mental illness, schizophrenia. These mental troubles prompted the artist to write a journal in which he put all his reflexions concerning his feelings and his perception of the world.

Nijinsky's writings contained very personal confessions. The author wanted to entitle them Sentiment and publish "en beaucoup de milliers d'exemplaires"3 in order to encourage the humankind to reflect on the fate of the Earth and the role of human beings on the planet and to convert people to Christianity and to bring them closer to God. These were the avowals of a sick man, who was certainly a lunatic, mentally unbalanced, even fanatic but, at the same time, an artistic genius whose stage performances always inspired and fascinated his successors. It was the same in case of Montreal artists, Gabriel Arc and and Téo Spychalski, who managed to create together an original drama based on Nijinsky's text in which the actor recalled the tragic path of the famous dancer.

The Francophone theatre play, Till l'Espiègle, was staged for the first time in 1982 within Groupe de la Veillée in Théâtre Prospero in Montreal. Téo Spychalski, in the montage of excerpts of the Journal, prepared with the aim of establishing a bridge "entre celui qui n'est plus là et le public qui écoute"4, faithfully reproduced Nijinsky's text5. There is no doubt that notes of a schizophrenic cannot constitute a homogenous text: there are numerous repetitions, incoherencies in the exposition of different thoughts, inconsistencies or even contradictions; however, when reading the text with more attention one can find very deep reflexions, the testimony of a great suffering - both physical and psychological - of a genius of dance. …

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