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By John Helmer, Moscow

Backstage at the Theatre du Chatelet on May 9, 1909, the curtain had come down on Vatslav Nijinsky’s performance of the Polovtsian Dances, an adaptation to Alexander Borodin’s music of the Tatar warrior dance. The Tatars flaunt their prowess, and their alluring slave girls, before their captive, the defeated Prince Igor. He’s in a low-libido Slavic mood, dismissing the Khan’s offer of his choice of the girls, or boys. The last words the chorus sings to Igor are: “There is more freedom for you there, song…And so, fly away!”

Nijinsky was asked by a visitor if it was difficult to stay in the air during his stage jumps. “No, no. Not difficult,” he answered. “You just have to go up and then pause a little up there.”

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