the spectre of the rose

Evgenia Obraztsova (Bolshoi Ballet) and Jacopo Tissi (Teatro alla Scala), “Le Spectre de la Rose”, 2016 Christmas Ballet Gala, The Kremlim Palace (December 16, 2016)

Photo © Alexander Yakovlev for Ballet Insider

Evgenia Obraztsova (Bolshoi Ballet), “Le Spectre de la Rose”, 2016 Christmas Ballet Gala, The Kremlim Palace (December 16, 2016)

Photo © Alexander Yakovlev for Ballet Insider


Part two of my series on disabled and gay or bisexual historical figures.

[photo captions: Vaslav Nijinsky in costume for Le Spectre de la Rose (1911), Sergei Diaghilev in evening dress (date unknown), the two of them together, smiling, in a candid photograph (1911), family photograph of the Nijinsky siblings (from left: Stanislas, Bronislava, and Vaslav) (c. 1897)]

I have posted before about Vaslav Nijinsky, including last year for @disabilityfest, and now I’m back at it again with a wider-ranging post about disability in general, neurodivergence specifically, sexual orientation and the Ballets Russes dance movement–it’s a huge special interest for me and I’d love to share.

This post will focus primarily on relationships between disabled people—both romantic and familial—which is a subject that I think is very important to recognize. Believing that we can fully love and be loved and that we deserve love is very hard for a lot of disabled people, and seeing positive examples of relationships can be very empowering.

The two people I am primarily writing about are Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) and Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950). They were both prominent figures in the Ballets Russes, an avant-garde ballet company that brought Russian art and dance talent to Europe and profoundly influenced 20th century ballet and modern dance, and they were also romantically involved with each other.

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Portrait of the Ballerina Natalie Krassovska (1934). Savely Sorine (Russian, 1878-1953). Watercolour, heightened with white, coloured crayons and pencil on paper, laid on canvas.

Krassovska joined the Ballet Russe de Paris in 1935 and René Blum’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1936. In 1938, she became a member of the Massine-Denham Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. During her time with the troupe, Krassovska worked closely with Mikhail Fokine who coached her for roles in Les Sylphides, Le Spectre de la Rose and other ballets. She advanced to the position of principal dancer.

This is the final pose of the short ballet “Le Spectre de la rose” by Jean-Louis Vaudoyer. In the ballet, a young woman meets a man at a ball and parts from him with the rose he gave her. As she rests the next night, she dreams about the rose coming to life as the young man revisiting her. Of course Pearl is dreaming about a different sort of Rose.

I almost did not finish this picture because the detail was too minute and the texture of the paper was getting in the way. I’m glad I finished it. 

Mariinsky Ballet first soloist Kristina Shapran and principal dancer Vladimir Shklyarov rehearsing Fokine’s “Le Spectre de la Rose.” Photo by Svetlana Avvakum.