We will always speculate and never really know what made Nijinsky dance, or what made Nijinski Nijinsky. There are many theories about his mental condition. Which jump caused his cookies to scatter? Did he float in and out of an imaginary world? Were his catatonic states caused by brain malfunction, or did he just want to see how long he could do nothing? Did he ever regain his sanity?
In his early years he encountered the social isolation that all good dancers know - hours in the studio means little time to play with other kits. As a young adult, he faced the challenge of being world famous. Being on display 24/7 may sound good to the novice, but leaves much to be desired for those who have been there. His choreography and experimentation with films shows a desire to brake from traditional ballet. This may not have been appreciated at box offices, or by those paying for his services. At his physical performance peak (age 23-25) he was in prison. Hardly the lifestyle desired by a celebrity, hardly the life that any human should endure. It’s somewhat predictable. If your bread aint well backed before entering a prison camp, it will be super sour dough when you leave. Here are some comments regarding Nijinski’s mental condition, written in a more professional style.
A New York Times article, "Analyst’s Views on Nijinsky Finally Published,” noted that in 1938, Nijinski was “ was among the 1st psychiatric patients to receive insulin coma therapy,... Then in 1945, when the Russians occupied the town in Hungary where the Nijinskys were living, he began to speak to the Russian soldiers and even, one night, to jump up and dance spontaneously with them as they performed peasant dances. ... Adler said” Nijinsky, possessed motor, auditory and visual abilities ''far above average.'"
Peter Ostwald, in his 1991 book, Vaslav Nijinsky, reviewed Nijinsky’s medical records during a 1919(?) hospitalization. It was noted that Nijinsky was walking with an attendant, "he suddenly 'leaped' into the air and rushed away, leaving the younger man breathlessly trying to catch up. He did this twice and the attendant became alarmed, saying he would have to tell Dr. Reese about it. Nijinsky tried to 'swear him to silence,' and told the attendant 'the whole thing was a joke.' Then he teasingly suggested, 'it might do you some good to have to jump once in a while.'" p.213 In my opinion, this event describes a man oriented to person, time and place and aware of the consequences of his actions. Persons suffering from a psychotic break with reality tend to be disoriented and unaware of consequences. A few pages later in same book: "'The impression he makes, and the complete art of his pantomime, is most thoroughly studied and truthful.' When it was all over, Nijinsky stopped being ‘catatonic’ and let himself be taken back to the Parkhaus by a nurse, where he spent 'a normal night.'” This could not be explained by the doctor who had limited knowledge of what it was like to be a trained ballet dancer. Nijinsky’s “training in St. Petersburg (which included the truthful imitation of people in emotional distress), and his choreographic invention of unusual movements. However, [the doctor] did intuitively appreciate the dancer's extraordinary talent for assimilating the expressions of disease.” The author continued, that mingling with psychotic patients at Burgholzli and Bellevue obscured the boundary between art and madness. “It now was possible for him to dance a ‘suicide-madness scene' with absolute conviction, and one could never be sure exactly which state he was in.” Pps. 217-8
To the above, I can only add, take a close look at the picture he drew. A joy filled sunrsie it aint.