Vaslav Nijinsky - Biography


Vaslav Nijinsky was born in 1889 or 1890 in Kiev, Russian Empire as Wacław Niżyński, to ethnic Polish parents, dancers Tomasz Lavrentievitch Niżyński (b. 7 March 1862) and Eleonora Bereda (b. 28 December 1856). Nijinsky was christened in Warsaw, and considered himself to be a Pole despite difficulties in properly speaking the language due to his childhood in Russia's interior where his parents worked.

Eleanora, with two brothers and two sisters, was orphaned while still a child and started to earn some money as an extra in the Wielki Theatre Ballet, becoming a full member of the company aged thirteen. In 1868 she was talent spotted and moved to Kiev as a solo dancer. Thomas also attended the Wielki Theatre school, becoming a soloist there, before at age 18 accepting a soloist contract with the Odessa Theatre. The two met, married in May 1884 and settled to a career with the travelling Setov opera company. Thomas was premier danseur, and Eleanora a soloist. Eleanora continued to tour and dance while having three children, Stanislav Fomitch (b. 29 December 1886 in Tiflis), Vaslav, and Bronislava Fominitchna ('Bronia', b. 8 January 1891 in Minsk). Both boys received training from their father and appeared in an amateur production of Hopak in Odessa in 1894.

Josef Setov died about 1894 and the company disbanded. Thomas attempted to run his own company but this was not a success so he and his family became itinerant dancers, his children appearing in the Christmas show at Nizhny Novgorod. In 1897 Thomas and Eleanora separated after Thomas had fallen in love with a dancer, Rumiantseva, while touring in Finland. Eleanora moved to 20 Mokhovaya Street in St Petersburg with her children. She persuaded a friend from the Wielki Theatre, Victor Stanislas Gillert, who was now teaching at the Imperial Ballet School, to help get Vaslav into the school and he arranged for Enrico Cecchetti to sponsor the application. Bronia entered the school two years after Vaslav. Their brother became increasingly mentally unstable and was admitted to an asylum for the insane in 1902.

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