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Vaslav Nijinsky From Ethiopia

Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky was a legendary Russian-born ballet dancer. Both his parents, Thomas Laurentiyevich Nijinsky and Eleonora Bereda, were celebrated dancers who performed throughout the Russian Empire. At age eight, Vaslav was enrolled at the Imperial School of Dancing in St. Petersburg and was immediately recognized for his extraordinary talent. He particularly excelled at gravity-defying leaps. In July 1907 he joined the Mariinsky Theatre and danced all of the leading parts from 1907 to 1911. He also performed as a guest at the Bolshoi Theatre. In 1909, promoter Sergey Diaghilev and others organized the ballet company Ballets Russes with members of the Mariinsky and Bolshoi. Nijinsky signed on as the star. The company’s first performance on May 17, 1909 at the Theatre du Chatelet was greeted with enthusiastic reviews. Reportedly Diaghilev and Nijinsky were lovers and together they pushed the boundaries of traditional ballet with Nijinsky interpreting ballets like The Rite of Spring with highly suggestive sexual gestures.

Despite the uproar, the criticism did little to impede Nijinsky’s career. In 1913, Ballets Russes made a tour of South America, but Sergey Diaghilev did not go along with the tour reportedly because of a fear of drowning in a shipwreck. While in South America, Nijinsky met Romola de Pulszky, a Hungarian countess, who, unbeknownst to Nijinsky, had been pursuing him for some time. During the tour, the couple married. Diaghilev was not pleased and was said to have flown into a rage. When war broke out in Europe, Nijinsky was briefly detained in Hungary, but Diaghilev, who he had apparently mended fences with, was able to get him out to mount a tour of North America in 1916.

Vaslav Nijinsky retired from dancing in 1919 at the age of 29. His retirement was brought on by a nervous breakdown later diagnosed as schizophrenia. He spent much of the rest of his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals and asylums in England, France and Switzerland. He died in London in 1950, and three years later his remains were moved to Montmartre. His tomb is graced with a bronze statue of a tired Nijinsky in his role as the puppet Petrushka, who he brought to life in the Igor Stravinsky ballet of the same name. The statue was said to be funded from a variety of sources including the estate of Ukrainian-born French ballet dancer and choreographer Serge Lifar (1905-1986). The base of the statue is engraved with the name Igor Makhaev, who was a ballet dancer, which leads one to believe that he may have also been a sculptor. But apparently, the signature is more than a little deceptive: Russian sculptor Oleg Abaziev claims he is the actual sculptor and points to his name on the back of the statue. Abaziev has written a rather scathing diatribe of Igor Makhaev, calling Makhaev a liar and opportunist, saying that Makhaev asked Abaziev to put Makhaev’s name on the base of the monument because officials from France and Russia had requested it.

Jacques Offenbach was born in Cologne, Germany, the son of a Jewish cantor (a musician who often leads the congregation in songful prayer). Young Jacques was sent to the city Conservatoire at age 14, but left after an unfulfilling year. However, he was an exceptional cellist and was able to make a good living and achieve international fame, first as a cellist and then as a conductor. But he yearned for more, preferring the informality of musical theater. He composed comic pieces but had trouble finding a venue, so in 1855 he opened his own small theater on the Champs-Elysees. He was almost immediately successful although some critics scoffed at his not-so-subtle risque humor that poked fun at the upper classes. Offenbach composed over 100 operas, although not all were performed. He is probably best remembered for his grand opera The Tales of Hoffman, which he was still struggling to complete while on his deathbed. His lively music is also associated with the cancan. Shortly after Offenbach’s death, Clement Scott penned a flowery elegy in the magazine Punch. The last four lines read:

Stop the dancing for the moment, take your partner to the stairs,

And together in a dreamland, hear his operatic airs.

Mirth has ended! and a spirit full of melody has fled To a land of sweeter musicmerry OFFENBACH is dead!

Offenbach’s bust was sculpted by Jules Franceschi (1825-1893).

Whitefield’s ministry had its greatest impact in the Northern colonies, with their Puritan background. Ethiopia Map While his influence was not nearly so strong in Southern provinces, his message did tend to create divisions throughout the British settlements. Whitefield attacked what he saw as the complacency and excessive rationalism of the eighteenth-century Church of England. In England and Country, he saw signs of a society afflicted with spiritual decay. He accused Anglican ministers of neglecting their divine mission to convert souls both white and native to the Lord’s cause. His criticisms of contemporary religious practice helped create a lasting split among the Country clergy. New Lights tended to embrace religious fervor as the cornerstone of a full Christian life. Old Lights, however, feared that the new emotionalism might degenerate into zealotry or derangement, and they strongly defended traditional elements of Anglican worship.

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