The Chosen Maiden
by Eva Stachniak
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Chronicling the years 1894 to 1939, this story covers the Russian Revolution, WWI and the years leading up to WWII through the eyes of Bronislava Nijinska, a Polish-born Russian ballet dancer who worked her way up to teaching and choreographing across Europe. Always in the shadow of her dancing prodigy brother, Vaslav, Bronia works hard for her place in Russia’s Imperial Ballet School. But, it seems, no matter how much she longs for fame and the freedom to create her own unique style, Vaslav is there challenging her every move. Though he is the one who makes the name of Nijinska famous, it is Bronia whose longevity, strength and steadfastness give this story its charm and appeal. Other than Bronia’s troubled relationship with her brother, there is also friction with other men in her life–her father, her husband, and her mentor/colleague, Sergei Diaghilev. The details of the Russian Revolution are painfully poignant. This book is full of stray pieces of wisdom and brilliant turns of phrase. Descriptions of the art of the dance are plenty, but are weaved in seamlessly and do not overtake the narrative. Though lengthy, it is a pleasure to read, with an intriguing and factual account of a fascinating woman who lived through a violent time in Russia’s history.
“Talent breeds resentment; brilliance attracts envy. Lesser souls seek comfort in bringing down those who are admitted into the company of gods.”
“They are persistent, our ghosts. Huddling behind us, dark and sticky, ravenous for any scraps of life we can still feed them.”
“If I were to dance these words, I would dance the drops of rain falling on parched earth. Soaking in, moisturizing the dormant seeds.”
“Dreams, even the impossible ones, do not die but find their own surprising paths. Become a canvas into which I still keep weaving new, colorful threads.”
“If we could see, in fast motion, a film of the people we descended from, what odd dance would we see?”