In the Spring of 1981, I read a book by Colin Wilson titled “The Outsider“. It covers the lives of Hemmingway, Dostoevsky, and Vaslav Nijinsky, as well as Van Gogh, T. E. Lawrence, and philosophers such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Primarily Wilson was trying to put together a new existentialism by showing examples of those who think deeply, don’t fit in, and search to find meaning in the world. Gary Sebastian gave me the book and when I finished it, I started in to “The Dairy of Vaslav Nijinsky“. I was consumed by the heights of Nijinsky’s artistic achievement and the depths of his despair. It was a time that I was evaluating my life and I related strongly to the concepts captured in “The Outsider“.
At the time, I worked at Dolby Laboratories in downtown San Francisco. One day I had driven to work (I usually caught the bus) and had parked the car in a lot across the street from the office. I had to leave the office early that day and went to the lot, gave them my ticket and waited for my car to be puzzled out of the maze of cars.
As I stood waiting, 2 elderly women arrived, gave their ticket to the attendant and waited with me. One of the women was holding a painting and I remarked that I found it very interesting. She told me that it was a painting that she had done of her father who was a dancer. The other woman then chimed in and told me that her friend was Kyra Nijinsky, daughter of the world famous Vaslav Nijinsky.
I stood, stunned.
Everything I had been reading, everything I had thought about Vaslav, and all my admiration came flooding out as I stood next to his daughter; someone who had actually known him, his greatness, his tragedy.
||This looks similar to the painting that Kyra held the day I met her.
“If you like this one, I have more you can see. I’m in the phone book.“, she said as I stammered for something meaningful to say. At that moment, my car arrived. I indicated to her that I might call and said goodbye.
That evening I decided to follow up on her offer, looked up her number (sure enough in the public phone book) and called her. I was hoping to take Elena to see her and her art and even though I didn’t think Elena would appreciate the relevance of Kyra I hoped that later in life she might remember the encounter with fondness.
Kyra seemed surprised that I had actually called and immediately started to back out of the offer she had made. She proceeded to describe that she had recently joined a convent of a community of nuns and that she wasn’t allowed to have men in her apartment. She also went on and on about how messy her apartment was and that she was in the process of hiring someone to organize her art and papers. I assured her that my intentions were honorable and that I was simply following up on the offer she had made earlier in the day. I offered her MY phone number and asked that, if she changed her mind, I would still like to come over with my daughter and see her paintings. She took down my number and said goodbye.
About 10 minutes later the phone rang. When I answered, it was Kyra calling me back. “If you’d like to buy a painting, I might be able to make an exception…”, she said.
I indicated that I was unable to afford any of her work and so she politely said goodbye and hung up. That was the last time I ever talked to her. I think she died in 1998.
Later, I found a movie, produced by Bud Cort titled “She Dances Alone”. It is a quasi-documentary styled piece in which Bud attempts to corral Kyra into doing some interviews and Kyra spins off in different directions doing whatever whim comes to her. It is an exercise in documentary frustration.
There’s a site that is dedicated to belly dancing, yoga and Kyra’s art. Go figure:
Kyra in 1935