The photograph is re-called as the dancer's body re-turns
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Vaslav Nijinsky (1890?-1950) made his fame in Paris as the premiere danseur of the Ballets Russes from 1909 to 1912. It is largely upon these four seasons that Nijinsky came to be considered the greatest dancer who has ever lived. In 1912, Nijinsky choreographed his first ballet, L’Après-midi d’un Faune (Faune). Approximately ten-and-a-half minutes in length, Faune is considered one of the most significant works in dance history, and a pivotal work of twentieth century theatrical modernism. In this study, Faune is identified as an extraordinary example of praxis, with Nijinsky as choreographer, performer, creator of an original dance notation system to record his ballet, and notator of its score. For nearly three-quarters of a century, Nijinsky’s score of Faune was considered an indecipherable oddity. Thus, with no film footage existing of Nijinsky dancing, the only material evidence of his performance in and choreography of Faune were photographs, including those from the famous Adolph De Meyer session in London in June of 1912. In 1989, however, Ann Hutchinson Guest and Claudia Jeschke “broke” the code of Nijinsky’s notation system, and in December of that year an historic performance of Faune took place at New York City’s Juilliard School, with then-student dancer Yoav Kaddar performing Nijinsky’s role of the Faun for the first time in seventy-five years exactly as described by Nijinsky in his original notation system. As primary researcher, the focus of my study is the description of a phenomenological “event,” my 2006 viewing of the 1989 videotaped Juilliard production of Faune. Within my viewing of Kaddar’s performance in the Nijinsky role of the Faun, I recalled my memories of the De Meyer photographs of Nijinsky and, through this “recollection,” imbricated within the “present” performance of the dancer Kaddar, I discovered what I believed to be an experientially “new viewing” and subsequent “new performance memory” of Vaslav Nijinsky. Under an umbrella methodology of phenomenology (embodied consciousness), I engaged in research on nonarchivalism and photographic realism (as they pertain to performance documentation), and performative knowledge within dance notation systems, to strengthen my experiential “belief,” and to enrich the description, as opposed to providing evidentiary “proof,” of my phenomenological event.