Bronislava Nijinska in a studio pose. (Photograph from the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives, Becket, Massachusetts.)
The most important woman choreographer of twentieth-century ballet, Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972) was born in Minsk, Russia. She graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg in 1908, and the following year, with her fabulously talented brother, Vaslav Nijinsky, took part in the triumphant Paris season of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. In 1911 she joined forces permanently with Diaghilev and began to assist Nijinsky in his innovative choreography. She returned to Russia in 1914, opened a studio in Kiev, and created her first modernist compositions. Rejoining the Ballets Russes, she choreographed Les Noces (1923) and Les Biches (1924), two of her greatest works and early statements of neoclassicism. In the 1920s and 1930s she created works for the Paris Opera Ballet and the Ida Rubinstein company, as well as several short-lived troupes of her own. She choreographed the dances for Max Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), which brought her to Hollywood, where she opened a studio in 1941. During the 1940s she staged works for Ballet Theatre, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and the Marquis de Cuevas company. Among her students were Maria and Marjorie Tallchief. She died in Pacific Palisades, California.
Bronislava Nijinska coaching Nina Vyroubova and Serge Golovine in The Sleeping Beauty for the Marquis de Cuevas' Ballet International, Paris, 1960. Photo by Serge Lido. (Photo from Dance Magazine Archives.)
Excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1935, directed by Max Reinhardt, choreographed by Nijinska, with Nini Theilade.