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'He achieves the miraculous,' the sculptor Auguste Rodin wrote of dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. 'He embodies all the beauty of classical frescoes and statues'. Like so many since, Rodin recognised that in Nijinsky classical ballet had one of the greatest and most original artists of the twentieth century, in any genre.
Immersed in the world of dance from his childhood, he found his natural home in the Imperial Theatre and the Ballets Russes, he had a powerful sponsor in Sergei Diaghilev - until a dramatic and public failure ended his career and set him on a route to madness. As a dancer, he was acclaimed as godlike for his extraordinary grace and elevation, but the opening of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring saw furious brawls between admirers of his radically unballetic choreography and horrified traditionalists.
Nijinsky's story has lost none of its power to shock, fascinate and move. Adored and reviled in his lifetime, his phenomenal talent was shadowed by schizophrenia and an intense but destructive relationship with his lover, Diaghilev. 'I am alive' he wrote in his diary, 'and so I suffer'. In the first biography for forty years, Lucy Moore examines a career defined by two forces - inspired performance and an equally headline-grabbing talent for controversy, which tells us much about both genius and madness.
This is the full story of one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century, comparable to the work of Rosamund Bartlett or Sjeng Scheijen.