The lush, sweeping story of a remarkable dancer who charts her own course through the tumultuous years of early twentieth-century Europe. Beautifully blending fiction with fact, The Chosen Maiden plunges readers into an artistic world upended by modernity, immersing them in the experiences of the era's giants, from Anna Pavlova and Serge Diaghilev to Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso.
From their earliest days, the Nijinsky siblings appear destined for the stage. Bronia is a gifted young ballerina, but she is quickly eclipsed by her brother Vaslav. Deemed a prodigy, Vaslav Nijinsky will grow into the greatest, and most provocative, dancer of his time. To prove herself her brother's equal in the rigid world of ballet, Bronia will need to be more than extraordinary, defying society's expectations of what a female dancer can and should be.
The real-life muse behind one of the most spectacular roles in dance, The Rite of Spring's Chosen Maiden, Bronia rises to the heights of modern ballet through grit, resilience and fervor. But when the First World War erupts and rebellion sparks in Russia, Bronia—caught between old and new, traditional and ground-breaking, safe and passionate—must begin her own search for what it means to be modern.
Stachniak (Empress of the Night) exquisitely blends fiction with fact in this novel about the remarkable ballet dancers Vaslav and Bronia Nijinsky. Her research began with Bronia's early memoir, which recounts her life as a young dancer up until 1914, and then delved into diaries, choreographic notes, correspondence, photographs, and scrapbooks. This rich and imaginative tale of Bronia and Vaslav's eventful lives intersects with a tumultuous period in the 20th century: a time of world wars, the Russian Revolution, and a revolution in the world of dance and art. Giants of the era, including Serge Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso, and Anna Pavlova, all appear. While Vaslav easily rises to fame with his unique and audacious style of dancing, his sister struggles to gain recognition as a dancer and choreographer. The book takes readers into the controversial 1913 premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, in which Vaslav casts Bronia as the Chosen Maiden who dances herself to death, and then follows them both into adversity. Stachniak brilliantly brings the story of Bronia, the lesser-known Nijinsky, to life. She has an excellent command of the period and the dance world, and an ability to draw characters who will enrapture the reader.