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The Rite of Spring: An Open Letter from Tamara Nijinksy
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Author:  David [ Fri May 24, 2013 7:45 am ]
Post subject:  The Rite of Spring: An Open Letter from Tamara Nijinksy

Nijinsky’s Daughter to finally receive financial recognition for her father’s masterpiece

On 29 May 1913 the first performance of "The Rite of Spring", choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, to a score by Igor Stravinsky, with a set by Nicholas Roerich was given at the Theatre des Champs Elysees, Paris. This centenary will be marked by a performance of The Rite of Spring given by The Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre, on the very same stage at the same theatre on the 29th May, 2013, in the presence of Vaslav Nijinsky’s daughter, Tamara, aged 93.

For the first time since the re-staging of Nijinsky's "The Rite of Spring" in 1987 by the Joffrey Ballet, Nijinsky's sole surviving daughter Tamara Nijinsky will receive, on behalf of the beneficiaries of The Vaslav and Romola Nijinsky Estate, legal recognition for her father's masterpiece at the performance.

In a ceremony immediately following the Centenary performance Tamara will be honoured by the French Government with the order of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. The citation states: “The French Minister of Culture will honour Tamara Nijinsky for the work she has undertaken on behalf of the Vaslav and Romola Nijinsky Foundation, which she founded in 1991”.

An open letter from Tamara Nijinsky

On May 29, 1913, in Paris, at the Theatre des Champs Elysees, my father, Vaslav Nijinsky, Igor Stravinsky, and Nicolas Roerich, created "The Rite of Spring" a revolutionary work, as much from the musical perspective as from the choreographic and aesthetic. We are all aware of the scandal which this ballet of the avant-garde provoked, and its modernity never ceases to amaze even today.

I am therefore very pleased that one century later, the Theatre des Champs Elysees, will honour this creation by showing four performances of "The Rite" and a conference at which the participants will focus on the historical importance of the work both in music and dance.

I would also like to highlight some further historical notes, relevant to these first five performances in Paris in 1913, which were followed by three performances in London in the same year, before Serge Diaghilev withdrew the work from the repertory of Les Ballets Russes, citing its unpopularity with audiences. It was only in 1987 that Nijinsky’s "Rite of Spring", became a subject of discussion and interest again. This re-awakening of interest was stimulated by the collaboration between Robert Joffrey (founder of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago) the choreographer and dance historian, Millicent Hodson, and the British art historian, Kenneth Archer, and their research into the original ‘Rite’ which led them to stage their ‘reconstituted’ version of "Rite" in its ‘original’ version.

It is important to note that, given the fact that Nijinsky did not annotate his choreography, the research work of Hodson and Archer was based on other sources: sketches, photographs, memories, the annotated score of Stravinsky himself, as well as another annotated by Marie Rambert, who was the assistant to Nijinsky, on the creation of ‘Sacre’ which showed some movement markings, and a letter of my aunt, Bronislava Nijinska, relating to the final dance of « the Chosen One », etc. If one looks back at the critics’ assessment of this ‘re-staging” it was not without considerable amazement that the public rediscovered this mythic work.

Vaslav Nijinsky’s successors, at the time, my sister Kyra (1914-1998) and myself, never contested the scientific value of the work of Hodson and Archer – in fact, on the contrary, we were overjoyed that historians and researchers were breathing new life into the work of our Father.

Now for the past 25 years, The Rite of Spring by Vaslav Nijinsky, or ‘after Nijinsky’ as reconstituted by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer has been seen throughout the world, and has entered into the repertory of more than 10 top dance companies, including the Mariinsky Theatre of St Petersburg, which will bring this production under Maestro Gergiev, to the Theatre des Champs Elysees.

For more that these twenty five years, the family of Vaslav Nijinsky have never received any authors’ royalty or rights for this work, which Hodson and Archer claim as their own, citing the fact that Nijinsky never annotated his choreography and that their reconstitution is their own ‘property’. For more than 25 years the public has been attending performances for which the publicity has focussed on the name of Vaslav Nijinsky, at the detriment of the rights of his successors. That the name of the work and the author were used in this way was completely ignored.

For better or worse, and encouraged by the success of their reconstitution of "Rite", Hodson and Archer subsequently embarked on restaging "Jeux",created and choreographed by Nijinsky in 1913, as well as "Till Eulenspiegel", created by him in New York in 1916. Important series dedicated to the work of Vaslav Nijinsky were programmed internationally with these works, with no reference either to the authors rights inherent in the works, or reference to the successor’s rights of ownership of the works.

For many years, we have attempted to gain an agreement with Hodson and Archer to regularise this situation, but all our attempts were rejected in one way or another – or simply put, ignored.

Vaslav Nijinski’s choreographic legacy comprises only of 4 works, of which three have become the exclusive property of Hodson and Archer. Only "L’Apres midi d’un faune" remains outside of their grasp, a work annotated by my father in 1915. What must we think of their project to ‘restage’ the last dance of Nijinsky in St Moritz on 19 January 1919, an improvisation without notation or photographic evidence, only seen by a hundred people all of whom have today left us? This question remains unresolved.

This year, thanks to the French legislation covering authors rights, and the Theatre des Champs Elysees which will host these performances, as well as the Society of Authors and composers in France, I shall for the first time attend a performance of the Rite of Spring, with the estate’s authorisation, in its so-called ‘original’ version. This will also be the very first time that the Nijinski successors will receive the authors’ rights on a work of Nijinsky reconstituted by Hodson and Archer. Up till today I have not wanted to impede any performance by my presence, which would reflect prejudicially on the name of Nijinsky. I have waited now until my 93rd year to do so.

It is interesting to note that amongst the contemporary choreographers interested by the "Rite" that many of them have approached the Foundation Vaslav and Romola Nijinsky, for any usage, showing their respect for the respect for the original work, and concerned by the ‘chain’ of rights usage, quite the contrary to the so called ‘restagers’ of the Rite of Nijinsky in its original version.

I add that my visit to Paris is made possible by the French contemporary choreographers who are members of the SACD, and whose membership dues have contributed to this visit to celebrate this centenary – and I thank them all with my heart.

I bring these facts to your attention in our wish to make public the injustice which has been done for over a quarter of a century. Up till now all our efforts to bring this to the attention of authorities outside of France to recognise the rights of Vaslav Nijinsky as author of the work have not been heeded: but we will continue to defend his right of authorship and more generally, defend the rights of all choreographers to be recognised and respected.

To everyone, a Happy Centenary of "The Rite of Spring"

Tamara Nijinsky

Author:  David [ Fri May 24, 2013 7:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Rite of Spring: An Open Letter from Tamara Nijinksy

As a quick postscript to the above, I know that the position regarding "Rite" rankled somewhat with Tamara. I was fortunate enough to have dinner with her a few years ago, when the subject did rear its head. That evening, by the way, also included a host of fascinating stories about her father. She was wonderful company.

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