Nijinsky’s War: the master becomes the muse

Acclaimed South African choreographer Ignatius van Heerden in Nijinsky’s War. Photo: Kyle Prinsloo

Nijinsky’s War — on what? Without any warning that the piece is about to begin, the audience is engulfed in a torrent of consciousness. The performance is creatively charged by a combination of the autobiographies of two artists: Ignatius van Heerden, acclaimed South African choreographer, and Vaslav Nijinsky, enigmatic Russian-Pole ballet dancer and choreographer.

The various performances showcased at this year’s National Arts Festival are ideal opportunities for stimulation of every variety. However, Nijinsky’s War adopts a highly decadent approach, and inundates the audience with over-stimulation.

Blink and you will certainly miss the projected visual images and video, dance, audio recordings, music, and text that occur simultaneously. Nijinsky’s War is so intricately layered with richly symbolic mediums that the audience fears missing out in the process of unravelling this motley performance.

Van Heerden honours Nijinsky’s Afternoon of the Faun and signature angular ballet style in a meta-like re-presentation: on screen flashes a monochromatic video of Van Heerden performing in nature, while he performs the same, slightly altered dance on stage. Unfortunately, Van Heerden’s narrative is almost completely eclipsed by Nijinsky’s. His spectacular career and tragic life leave little room for the audience to acquaint themselves with Van Heerden’s personal story.

Nijinsky’s War winds down with Van Heerden’s self-presentation in the dance and projected visuals and video, but the effect of his delayed introduction had little dramatic effect. Come the end of the performance, one feels as if they have warred with understanding Nijinsky’s War.

By Ayanda Gigaba

Catch the final two performances at Vicky’s on July 2 at 4pm and July 3 at 9.30pm. R55 to R65.