Rupert Christiansen

Dancing on the Edge

Nijinsky

By

Profile Books 324pp £25 order from our bookshop

‘What grace coupled with what brutality!’ was Jean Cocteau’s verdict after he first encountered Vaslav Nijinsky – an exclamation which seems an apt epitome of a man whose dancing and choreography revolutionised ballet and created a legend that still smoulders today, nearly a century after he abandoned his art and descended into a black mental and emotional hole from which he never fully emerged.

Although drawing solely on secondary sources (the spadework, including extensive interviews with Nijinsky’s widow, friends and witnesses, was done by Richard Buckle for his 1971 biography), Lucy Moore’s new study of this often inscrutable figure is highly intelligent, lucidly presented and consistently absorbing. Sometimes her first-person speculations are obtrusive and the flights of fancy at the book’s opening and closing seem misjudged, but she tells a remarkable story with great flair, as sensitive to psychological complexities as she is judicious in her aesthetic judgements.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,
    • 'Behind Berlusconi’s greasepaint and his rictus grin, the performance of Toni Servillo suggests the affectless holl… ,