photos by Aleksey Bochkovsky
Nocturnal Butterflies is a multimedia dance performance dedicated to the legendary dancer, choreographer, mad genius, and beautiful myth of the early 20th century, Vaslav Nijinsky. Nijinsky, still considered one of the greatest dancers in history, revolutionized the world of ballet with primitivist choreography and sensual imagery that was highly controversial for his time. His most famous ballets include L'aprés-midi d'un Faune (The Afternoon of a Faun), choreographed to Debussy's prelude of the same name, and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), for which Stravinsky composed the music.
After his estrangement with Diaghilev—the great impresario, founder of Les Ballets Russes, and Nijinsky’s lover—Nijinsky began to descend into poor mental health and was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. Nijinsky had dreamed of making a ballet he wanted to call Papillons de la Nuit(Noctural Butterflies), showing the full range of human sexual behavior. However, he was not to make this or any other ballet, and spent the remaining thirty years of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals.
During the six-week period before first being committed to an asylum,Nijinsky began documenting his thoughts and experiences in several notebooks. These notebooks—full of strange dreams and fantasies, often of an unusual sexual nature—form the foundation of our research for our own Nocturnal Butterflies. Our goal in this performance is to penetrate the illusory world the genius preferred to the real one. Like a nocturnal butterfly, exposed to the harsh daylight, Nijinsky and his art were too beautiful and vulnerable for the cold world of rationality.
Directed/choreographed by Erika Tsimbrovsky with dancers Andrew Ward, Suzanne Lappas, Kegan Marling, Christine Saulut-Bonansea, Lindsay Gauthier, and Rosemary Hannon, visual artist Vadim Puyandaev (set and costumes), London-based musician Grundik Kasyansky , video artist Ruslan Belorusets, lighting designer Kedar Lawrence, and concept-monger Laura Maguire.
This performance has been made possible by grants from Dancers’ Group Lighting Artists in Dance, Zellerbach Family Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Guzik Foundation, and Lincoln University.
"For Tsimbrovsky and her dancers, Nijinsky’s notebooks form the foundation of their research for Nocturnal Butterflies. A recent immigrant from the former Soviet Union, Tsimbrovsky started reading Nijinsky’s diary as well as Romola’s biography in a period of insomnia induced by a deep anxiety about being a stranger in a strange land, unsure about how her art would be received in the Bay Area. Something about the title Nocturnal Butterflies resonated with her, if only in a liminal, unexpressed way. As a dancer, she was fascinated by the rare opportunity to catch a glimpse into the internal workings of another dancer’s mind, especially one of such exceptional talent as Nijinsky. It felt to her like she had been given a key that unlocked a gate to a hidden garden, one she could only dream about on those nights when insomnia did not grasp her in its clutches. She imagined the manic Nijinsky, scribbling incessantly throughout the night, while Romola slept nervously by his side. She began to feel her way into his unhinged world, into a darkness where one navigates only by the faint sound of a moth’s wings flapping somewhere in the distance..."
from Article InDance Glimpses of Nijinsky…100 Years Later by Laura Maguire, 2009