Bronislava Nijinska


Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962). Les Noces, Scene design, 1922. Pencil. Uncatalogued designs. Purchased with the Howard D. Rothchild Fund, 2002.

Les Noces

Les Noces heralded the return of the Ballets Russes as the force for innovation and quality in modern ballet.  By eliminating virtuosic “star” roles, Nijinska broke down the structures of ballet performance, in ways that would be continued by modern innovators throughout the twentieth century.  The sharp, minimal aesthetic of the music, choreography, and décor focused the attention of the audience on the dancing technique itself, which Nijinska based on classical ballet technique but manipulated stylistically to achieve her emotional and symbolic goals. 

This pencil sketch of the stage and apron by Natalia Goncharova shows her proposed arrangement of four grand pianos on stage. (Amusingly, she seems to have had a mistaken notion of just what a piano looks like, and her later versions of the drawing retained the out-of-proportion instruments.)