Sunday, June 13, 2010

Museworthy: Vaslav Nijinsky, 1890 - 1950

Even as a child, Vaslav Nijinsky could leap higher than all the other wannabe ballet boys in his St Petersburg class. The brightest male star of Diaghilev's Ballet Russe unwittingly changed the face of fashion as he danced his way through the cataclysmic cultural shift that shook Europe after the Belle Epoche.

As Leon Bakst's costumes ushered in the trends for Orientalism, velvets, embellishments, carnival colours, metallic adornments and diaphanous layers - later taken up by Yves Saint Laurent for his S/S haute couture 1976 Opera-Ballet Russe collection - Nijinsky was doubtless too busy being a tortured genius to care about how his getups impacted on womenswear. But his image certainly left us with a rich style legacy. Scarlets, purples, emeralds and golds - I can see a rainbow.

Images: Top, Saint Laurent sketch, SS 1976 haute couture; look from that collection; Bakst's vision of Nijinsky as the fawn; two images of Nijinsky in "Danse siamoise" from the "Orientales" Copyright © 2000–2010 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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