Maria Dare Dance History Collection
Vera Trefilova
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.

(1875 - 1843) age 68
Vaslav Nijinsky Timeline
1891: born Warsaw.
His mother was a dancer, father matre de ballet at Imperial Theatre School of Warsaw
1896: age 5,
1st appearance in a ballet
1898: age 7,
joined Imperial Theatre School, Warsaw,
1900: age 9,
accepted to Imperial Theatre School, St. Petersburg
1907: age 16,
debut in Maryinsky Theatre
1910: age 19,
resigned from Maryinsky
1912  age 21, choreographic debut
1913  age 22,
toured South America with Diaghilev Co; married company member, Romola, in Buenos Aires; left Diaghilev’s co.
1914: age 23,
formed his own troupe in London

WWI broke out when Nijinski was in Austria-Hungary.  He was sent to prison camp for 2 years as a result of being Russian.

1916: age 25,
released from prison; returned to Diaghilev who was touring NY
Went to South America & split with Diaghilev
Went back to Europe

1932-33: age 41, institutionalized in Switzerland?
1938: age 47,
shock treatment
1945: age 54
danced spontaneously, with Russian troupes who were occupying his town.
1950: age 59
Died in England,
(kidney disorder)
Above: Vaslav Nijinsky, 1913 from Nijinsky, by Romola Nijinsky, his wife
Bronislava Nijinsky
(1890 - 1972) age 82
(Nijinski, Nijinska)
Bronislava was a dancer, choreographer, teacher and sister of Vaslav Nijinsky. She danced with Imperial Ballet. She then joined the Ballets Russes as dancer and choreographer. Her students included the prima ballerina Maria Tallchief. She arrived in USA in 1938 and died in Los Angeles California in 1972.
See Also:
Nijinsky's 2 Claims to Fame:
Being Insanely Great, &
Being greatly insane
(1880-1942) age 62
Grigoriev, in his book Diaghilev Ballet 1909-1929, stated that in 1924 "For the chief part in Le Lac des Cygnes, Diaghilev invited Trefilova, the best of all Princess Auroras even at the Mariinsky, and she amazed everyone at Monte Carlo by her extraordinary fouettes."  She did 32 fouettes without batting an eye. Also known for her performances in Surge Legat's The Fairy Doll (1903) and Mikhail Fokine's The Night of Terpsichore (1907) and Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.

Trefilova was born 1875 Vladikavkaz.  In 1894, she joined the Maryinsky Theatre, promoted to soloist in 1901, to Prima Ballerina in 1906  She resigned in 1910 and left Russia in 1917. By 1929, the Mme. Vera Trefilova School of Dance was operating at 33 Rue Pergolese, Paris, France and taught Classic Ballet, Toe, and Character dance. She died in Paris, 1943.

Elinova Linden studied with Trefilova while in France and performed Trefilova choreography in a 1929_ Lindendare Recital in Portland, Oregon. Since Maria Dare and Marcelle Renoux studied with Elinova, it is safe to say that Trefilova had a strong influence on the early Portland dance arena.
Leon was the son of Alexander and Alexandra Forkine, nephew of Michel Fokine. He too was a gifted teacher. In later years he was associated with Harkness School of Ballet. His sister(?), Irene Fokine also a ballet teacher.
Above: Bronislava Nijinsky
Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky
(1891-1950) age 59
(Nijinski, Nijinska)
Micheal Fokine
& wife Vera
Dance Magazine,
May 1926

Above: Nijinsky in Petrouchka from Nijinsky, by Romola Nijinsky, his wife

Above: Drawing by V. Nijinsky
Nijinsky, by Romola Nijinsky, his wife
see also:
Above: Trefilova

see also:
Left: Les Ballets Russes de Nijinsky, 11:48 min

Above: Vaslav Nijinsky, 1913 from Nijinsky, by Romola Nijinsky, his wife

Michel (Michael) Fokine
Vera Fokina
Leon Fokine
Aleksandra Aleksandrovna (Alexandra) Fedorova-Fokine
(1905 - 1973) age 68
(1884 - 1972) age 88
Michel Fokine had an older brother, Alexander who married Alexandra Fedorova. Aleksandra Aleksandrovna (Alexandra) Fedorova-Fokine," was born 1884. She "graduated from the Maryinsky Ballet School in 1902," danced with the Maryinsky Ballet company, "... a prima-ballerina at the “Troitsky Miniuature Theatre” sponsored by her husband, Aleksandr Fokine, ...the family moved to Riga, Latvia, where she was appointed as a ballet teacher and choreographer at the National Riga Opera. In 1936 [1937-?] ...the family moved to the United States where she opened a ballet school. Alexandra Fedorova-Fokine died New Jersey in 1972" from

was a talented choreographer, producer, teacher, and the wife of Michel Fokine

Michael was accepted to Saint Petersburg Imperial Ballet School (Vaganova Ballet Academy) at age 9. His debute at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre was in Paquita, at age 18. In 1902, he became one of the youngest teachers of that school. but taught in Europe for a period. He is best known for his choreography, staging more than 70 ballets in Europe and USA, such as The Dying Swan, Le Vigne, Le Pavilion d’Armide, Les Sylphides, Prince Igor, Cleopatra, Carnaval, Firebird, Scheherazade, Le Spectre de la Rose, Petrouchka, Daphnis and Chloe and Le Cog d’Or. "He believed an attempt should be made to harmonize music, scenery and dance. This philosophy was summed up in his “Five Principles” as explained in a letter to the London Times on July 6, 1914. These principles revolutionized ballet and were applied to his creations during the early 1900’s, performed at the Maryinsky Imperial Ballet and, under Serge Diaghilev, at the Ballets Russe." He eventually moved to New York, USA where he died in 1942. [from and ]

"While rehearsing the company in Mexico City he developed a thrombosis in his leg. By the time he reached New York it had developed into Pleurisy, which turned into double pneumonia. He died on 22 August 1942. In tribute to his passing, seventeen ballet companies around the world performed Les Sylphides simultaneously. "

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