Out From the Shadow of the Great Nijinsky

An Interview with Kinga Nijinsky Gaspers

All artists struggle to forge a unique identity; few bear the surname Nijinsky.

Kinga Nijinsky Gaspers, granddaughter of legendary danseur Vaslav and his maligned wife Romola, tried for many years to ignore her famous (and equally infamous) lineage. For much of her life, she slept with her grandfather’s dancing costumes shut away in a box beneath her bed. Until one day she opened the box and watched a young dancer reverently caress each garment.

Unable to escape history, Kinga set out to correct, what she sees as, its distortions and to rescue

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her family’s memory from the grasp of historians, filmmakers and journalists who stand to profit from sensationalizing it.

I met Kinga through mutual friend Howard Allen (aka “the Script Doctor”). Their pairing suggests that the ultimate revision will find its audience via the Big Screen. I for one look forward to it. Welcome, Kinga!

You have played piano professionally, acted a one-woman play, and authored a book. You are also the granddaughter of the legendary danseur, Vaslav Nijinsky. What was it like to grow up in the shadow of so famous a personage—and how has being a Nijinsky influenced your development as an artist?

Thank you for calling me an artist. For a long time, I did not consider myself one. Growing up in Communist Hungary, I knew nothing about my grandfather Nijinsky; however, I was very proud of my father, Miklos Szakast, a well-known and talented actor in Hungary. It was his example, nurturing and inspiration that led me to who I am today. When I first discovered the connection to Nijinsky, I was miffed. I wanted a life and accomplishments of my own, not through accident of birth. As I grew up, matured, I realized that I had been given a mission, a mission to pick up where my grandmother Romola left off and to continue spreading my grandfather’s legacy.

Your grandmother, Romola Nijinsky, has been depicted as a figure of little importance apart from her association with the great Vaslav. Who, in truth, was Romola?

Romola Pulszky was an amazing woman of the 20th century. The first truly liberated woman. She was cultured, educated, and a speaker of many languages, but most of all, the one and only person of her time who truly understood and appreciated Nijinsky’s art and soul. She loved him unconditionally, and stood by him in sickness and in health, and beyond the grave.

You spent years researching your grandparents’ extensive U.S. tour with the Ballets Russes. Why did you choose to focus on that particular leg of their life journey?

The search began with the fascination of a handwritten itinerary of the tour, left to me by my grandmother. Since I live in the US and am a proud American citizen, I wished to know more about how the America of the 1910s received this very exciting and unusual troupe of artists.

What childhood memories do you cherish of your grandparents? What were they like off-stage?

Sadly, I did not know my grandfather. My grandmother, Romola, I respected, admired and was a bit afraid of. I got to know her well when preparing for my one-woman show, Mme. Nijinsky: Married to a God, written by my dear friend, Terry Earp. Thanks to her vision and understanding of Nijinsky’s wife, I met my grandmother, onstage and off.

You were among the first readers of You, Fascinating You and called the novel, “A story reminiscent of that of my grandparents.” What was it about the book that evoked your family history?

The book evoked my childhood following WWII, growing up in Budapest; the places, the names in the dance and theater world were so very familiar to me. I saw the story unfold in front of my eyes. I understood the suffering that millions shared because of the horrors of war, and understood my grandfather Nijinsky, who was so affected by man’s inhumanity to man that he withdrew from the world.

What is next for Kinga Nijinsky Gaspers?

Next is a film project about the Nijinskys.

If you have enjoyed this interview, check back soon for posts featuring soloist dancer Elana Altman, danseur/choreographer Jamie Benson, and others.

“Nijinsky dancing was as wistful as a voice in the dark…” The Body of the Artist, Meg Sperling

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3 Responses to Out From the Shadow of the Great Nijinsky

  1. Howard Allen April 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Good to hear smart talk from two of my heros and my inspirations.

    • Germaine Shames April 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

      From the Doc himself. Thank you, Howard, now get back to work and finish that film script!

  2. La April 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    I’ll look forward to the Nijinsky film–but who could possibly play Nijinsky?

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