The Art of Nijinsky/Conclusion
The praise which the Russian Ballet has almost universally received in England seems to offer one of the rare instances of our ability to appreciate a good thing when we see it. On that we may congratulate ourselves. But I am reminded that this appreciation is by no means universal, and that in Russia itself there is a section of opinion to whom the later developments of the Diaghilew ballet are frankly abhorrent.
Hitherto, we must remember, the ballet in Russia has been an exclusively aristocratic form of art. It has relied for its existence on State patronage, and has inevitably preserved the bias of all things royal towards the conventional and the correct. But now that private enterprise has furnished an independent outlet, the ballet has become a splendid playground for that personal and adventurous spirit which is the first result of emancipation. This, of course, means many enemies in the country of its origin, and explains the fact that, like so many achievements of the modern Russian spirit, the new art of Russian dancing is an art of exiles.
In this country, however, the Russian Ballet has had to face no active hostility, and a recent pronouncement of Mr, Gordon Craig affords, I think, the only serious and public criticism of its principles.
Briefly, his complaint is that the appeal of the ballet is too material—the beauty of individual human bodies acting upon our senses, stimulating a physical appreciation which excludes the serene spiritual revelation that is the aim of art.
If anyone has a right to make such a stricture it is Mr. Craig; and however little we may be disposed to take his point of view, it may at least remind us that there are worlds of feeling which the Russians have still to conquer, and that Nijinsky himself, though, indeed, he has shown us something of the dance under its first ritual inspiration, has as yet done nothing to restore to it that social significance which was once the secret of its appeal.
That for the Future, In the meantime, we may be well content. The memory of a hundred wonderful nights is enough. And if Nijinsky never danced again we should know that his fame would be safe—the fame of one who, more perhaps than any man living, has made beauty for his generation.