“Nijinsky” Ballet by Marco Goecke. Swiss premiere Ballet Zurich

The new full-length ballet by Marco Goecke deals with the dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinski. It touches on significant stages of his life on and off the stage showing how closely art and madness are related.

Nijinski was one of the most extraordinary artists of the last century and an intrinsic part of Russian ballet glory. An outstanding artist whose gift of transformation, physical capacity and the ability to seemingly pause in the air during his jumps became legendary. His role in Petrushka is iconic and his major work The Rite of Spring – one of the symbols of modernism – is still in the spotlight.

Marco Goeke’s ballet narrates about different stages of Nijinsky’s life. It is quite typical for Goeke to go beyond the biography and this play is no exception, as it explores some fundamental philosophical questions. NIJINSKI will reflect on the magic and the value of art – and the high price it exacts from all creative minds.

Nijinsky Ballet by Marco Goecke
Music by Frédéric Chopin and Claude Debussy
Swiss premiere / Revised Zurich version
Choreography Marco Goecke Musical director Pavel Baleff Stage and costume design Michaela Springer Lighting designer Udo Haberland Dramaturgy Esther Dreesen-Schaback

  • Duration 1 H. 30 Min. Without interval. Introduction 45 min before the performance.
  • Introductory matinee on 3 Mar 2019.


Only ten glorious years were granted Vaslav Nijinsky at the head of Sergei Diaghilev’s legendary Ballets Russes. He intoxicated audiences – with virtuoso leaps and androgynous charisma – as the Faun and the Golden Slave. His audacious choreographies provoked scandals. He loved a man and married a woman. The dancer fell at the pinnacle of his fame. Before he died in London in 1950, he had spent thirty deranged years in the shadows of mental asylums. Compulsory admission to a psychiatric clinic, dubious diagnoses and experimental therapies drove his soul beyond the reach of others.

Marco Goecke has dedicated a feature-length ballet to this epoch-making dancer and choreographer. The result fascinatingly merges Goecke’s distinctive, nervously trembling, frantic body language with reminiscences of Nijinsky the artist. This also allows for choreographic elements of his career as a dancer to be incorporated. The choreography focuses on Nijinsky the man and his character, transposing emotions into highly aesthetic movement. Although Marco Goecke accompanies the exceptional artist through the stages of his life, the piece extends far beyond a purely biographical study, and focuses on fundamental questions. The magic and value of art takes centre stage – but also the price that it intransigently exacts from all creative people.

After Deer Vision and Petrushka, Marco Goecke will once again be a guest of Ballett Zürich to develop a new, extended version of his Nijinski ballet with the ensemble. The original was premièred at the Theaterhaus Stuttgart’s Gauthier Dance festival to great acclaim.

Together with Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Frédéric Chopin’s two piano concertos – played by the Swiss pianist Adrian Oetiker – will form the musical framework of this moving evening. Pavel Baleff will conduct the Philharmonia Zurich.

Jan Casier (Nijinsky) and Mélanie Borel (Romola) in Nijinsky © Carlos Quezada.

Modern Ballet Ballet “Nijinski” by Marco Goecke.

Modern Ballet Ballet “Nijinski” by Marco Goecke.

Modern Ballet Ballet “Nijinski” by Marco Goecke.

Modern Ballet Ballet “Nijinski” by Marco Goecke.