Sergei Diaghilev - Personal Life

Personal Life

Nijinsky's later bitter comments about Diaghilev inspired a mention in W. H. Auden's poem "September 1, 1939": "The windiest militant trash/ Important Persons shout/ Is not so crude as our wish:/ What mad Nijinsky wrote/ About Diaghilev/ Is true of the normal heart;/ For the error bred in the bone/ Of each woman and each man/ Craves what it cannot have, Not universal love/ But to be loved alone."

Diaghilev was known as a hard, demanding, even frightening taskmaster. Ninette de Valois, no shrinking violet, said she was too afraid to ever look him in the face. George Balanchine said he carried around a cane during rehearsals, and banged it angrily when he was displeased. Other dancers said he would shoot them down with one look, or a cold comment. On the other hand, he was capable of great kindness, and when stranded with his bankrupt company in Spain during the 1914-18 war, gave his last bit of cash to Lydia Sokolova to buy medical care for her daughter. Alicia Markova was very young when she joined the Ballet Russes and would later say that she had called Diaghilev "Sergypops" and he'd said he would take care of her like a daughter.

Diaghilev dismissed Nijinsky summarily from the Ballets Russes after the dancer's marriage in 1913. Nijinsky appeared again with the company, but the old relationship between the men was never re-established; moreover, Nijinsky's magic as a dancer was much diminished by incipient madness. Their last meeting was after Nijinsky's mind had given way, and he appeared not to recognise his former lover. Dancers such as Alicia Markova, Tamara Karsavina, Serge Lifar, and Lydia Sokolova remembered Diaghilev fondly, as a stern but kind father-figure who put the needs of his dancers and company above his own. He lived from paycheck to paycheck to finance his company, and though he spent considerable amounts of money on a splendid collection of rare books at the end of his life, many people noticed that his impeccably cut suits had frayed cuffs and trouser-ends. The film The Red Shoes is a thinly disguised dramatization of the Ballet Russes.

Read more about this topic:  Sergei Diaghilev

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