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The two Nijinskys: Hamburg Ballet's John Neumeier uses twins to dance the story of bisexual ballet god Vaslay Nijinsky. The result? Fantastic.

The life of Vaslay Nijinsky, the first male superstar of ballet, has all the elements of a soap opera. So says John Neumeier, director of the Hamburg Ballet and choreographer of the new ballet. Nijinsky, which makes its U.S. debut at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., February 11-15.

A ballet soap opera? Absolutely. "There is a man loving another man: Nijinsky and Serge Diaghilev," Neumeier explains. "And a woman, Nijinsky's wife, coming in between. All that drama, and then Nijinsky goes mad."

And that's just the backstage action. The Ballets Russes, the early-20th-century ballet troupe organized by Diaghilev and starring Nijinsky, was so daring that in 1913 audiences rioted at the premiere of Afternoon of a Faun.

The story is symbolically told in the two-act ballet, which moves to New York's City Center February 19-22 and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., February 25-29. With a pastiche of scores by Chopin, Schumann, Shostakovitch, and Rimsky-Korsakov, Nijinsky is a phantasmagoria.

"The ballet concentrates on the landscape of Nijinsky's inner life, through the dimension which was most important to him--his physicality and dancing," says Neumeier.

Onstage a pair of comely Czech twins, Jiri and Otto Bubenicek, portray conflicting personas that fed Nijinsky's schizophrenic personality: his erotic side, which emerged in such roles as the faun in Afternoon of a Faun, and his androgynous aspect, which came forward in such ballets as Le Spectre de la Rose.

Nijinsky also does justice to the dancer's same-sex passions. "There is a long pas de deux between Diaghilev and Nijinsky that explores their physical relationship," says Neumeier, who is gay.

Although the choreographer believes that Nijinsky was bisexual, he stresses the importance of the dancer's sexual-creative connection. "Nijinsky's homosexuality was very important in the beginning in the incredibly productive relationship with Diaghilev," says Neumeier. "There is a strength that came out of that."

The ballet shows that although Nijinsky ended up in an asylum, he changed the dance world through his artistry and even the diary he wrote throughout his illness. "He was a complete human being," says Neumeier, who adds that he owns the world's largest collection of Nijinsky memorabilia. "Through his sexuality, his humanity, and his spirituality."

Carman also writes for The New York Times.
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Title Annotation:dance
Author:Carman, Joseph
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 17, 2004
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