Nijinsky is not there.

Vaslav Nijinsky, “the God of Dance,” was regarded as the greatest male dancer of the early twentieth century. When he was asked what made it possible for him to do seemingly superhuman leaps, he said it was possible for him to do so only when Nijinsky was not there. In other words Nijinsky could be Nijinsky only when he danced with no sense of self. He was able to disidentify from any sense of his personality–to dance with no fear, no doubt, no judgment, no anxiety, no awareness of the audience or the person named Nijinsky. This is what the pianist Marilyn Crispell (and many others, I would presume) calls getting out of your own way. It’s a must for creative improvisers. Many musicians–Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, John McLaughlin, to name just a few with whom I am familiar–talk about being simply a means, a channel, a conduit, through which the spirit of the music can find expression. How does one develop the capacity to not be there while performing? It’s going to be a different path for every individual. For some, it will come quite naturally. For others, it’s a lifelong endeavor.

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