Debussy's Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un faune, inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé's poem has become one of the most celebrated dance masterpieces when in 1912 Nijinsky broke from the vocabulary and tradition of ballet to virtually establish a new language for dance. This fusion of the work of a great poet, a renowned composer, and charismatic choreographer and dancer, synthesizes the art forms into a single entity creating a masterwork that transcends time. Until recently it has been difficult to understand Nijinky's achievement since dance has been an ephemeral art depending upon memory to reconstruct works that often emerge as wholly new interpretations.
However, through careful study and research of dance scholars Ann Hutchinson Guest and Claudia Jeschke, Nijinsky's notes have been captured in Labanotation, and for the past few months Tina Curran has been meticulously using this score in recreating this masterpiece with dancers from Princeton's Department of Dance. It has become a labor of love for Tina and her dancers, and in a recent showing of the work in progress, it was clear that all artists involved felt an ownership in the destiny and evolution of this performance. In faithfully translating Nijinsky's work they are bringing forth a remote historical event as a vital artistic presence.
The lyrical flow of Nijinsky's new language must have astonished the audiences of the early twentieth century, and his perception to let the virtuosity of climactic moments emerge from the inner intensity of the dancers gives us a glimpse into the sensitive awareness and understanding of his genius.
The dancers for this Princeton end-of-year showing were Meilinda Huang, BethAnn Ingrassia, Natasha Kalimada, Jeremy Olsen, Jillian Olsen, Julie Rubinger, Jennie Scholick, Elizabeth Schwall, and Mariah Steele. The full performance is slated for the McCarter Theatre Center in February.