SOUND COMPOSED BY PETRA SALSJO
It began in a second hand bookstore. Kate Baker found herself picking up books about Nijinsky and curiosity and fascination slowly kindled.
In 2012 the Hamburg Ballet visited Brisbane in Australia and performed a Nijinsky-inspired ballet. Kate attended that performance. One dancer had something of the essence she was seeking, however she was unable to make contact with him.
A few months later, while in Europe, Kate was given the opportunity to attend a dress rehearsal of a Nijinsky gala performance in Hamburg and take some photographs. However, far from the stage, this was not Kate’s preferred way to make photographs, the mystery dancer was not featured and the session was not fruitful.
On leaving the ballet, pondering the question of best next steps, Kate entered the train station. At this point synchronicity stepped in. The dancer from the Brisbane performance walked onto the otherwise empty platform. After a brief exchange, the next day he wrote to Kate saying that he was really interested in this project, because it was not a literal representation of Nijinsky, but rather, an exploration of his soul.
And so a dancer and a photographer were brought together to make this work.
This work is from my new series ‘Nijinsky and the Ecstasy of the Divine’ is inspired by Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950), the genius Russian dancer/choreographer. This study imagines Nijinsky’s inner and outer world and seeks a modern expression of the creative essence, which inhabited him.
Nijinsky, the most significant male ballet dancer of the 20th Century. A dance genius, he was the first male international “star” of the ballet. His gift as a dancer captivated audiences from the moment he began dancing as a young child.
In addition to extraordinary technique, he was the first dancer to use his body to inhabit a character to such an extent that he was utterly believable, whether it be a delicate rose, an African slave, a half- human faun, a Turkish slave, a puppet or a bluebird. Beyond his own dancing, Nijinsky’s choreography was so radically innovative it made a profound impact across Europe and America paving the way for modern ballet.
He truly took dance to an entirely new level. Becoming the lover of Diaghilev and working with other great artists such as Stravinsky, opened many doors artistically and added to the mystique of the man. At the height of his power as a dancer and choreographer, at just 29 yrs, he succumbed to mental illness and spent the remaining 30 years of his life in and out of asylums. His writings, filled with references to transcendence and God, are fascinating and add further mystery to the man.
The genius and magic of Nijinsky continues to inspire artists. No film footage exists so the only record of his mastery is through photographs and eyewitness accounts. Stories of the magic of his performances abound.
Kate Baker is an Australian fine art photographer. During 2003-2004 Kate studied at the Australian Centre of Photography, with further studies under master printer Gordon Undy, a former student of both Paul Caponigro and George Tice. Since 2005 Kate has exhibited in galleries in Australia and Europe. Her work is held in collections in Australia, the US and Europe. 2008 saw publication of her first book Fridays at Oasis, a series of portraits, to critical acclaim, with a work from this series a finalist in the Olive Cotton Award for Portraiture the same year. Kate has representation in New York, Berlin and Melbourne.
Kate uses black and white film with a range of small, medium and large format cameras. Handcrafted gelatin silver prints are made by the artist in her darkroom in the Yarra Valley.
Immersing herself in almost every area of music making, Petra Salsjö has a strong melodic flare and is an accomplished pianist and vocalist. Born in Sweden, but relocating to Australia soon after, a mosaic of musical influences were part of the norm in an unusual childhood. Originally a classically trained musician, Petra was accepted into the jazz improvisation stream at the Victorian College of the Arts at the age of 17, which she completed with first class honours. She has subsequently completed post graduate studies in composition and screen music from both AFTRS and University of Melbourne (completion 2014).
In 2004, Petra received an Arts Victoria grant to record her original music and has released two independent EPs. This resulted in high rotation airplay, national touring, co-writing and music placements. She has since written for feature and short films, animations and a TV pilot. She composed, orchestrated, recorded and mixed the original music for the multi award winning short film ‘The Telegram Man’ and was awarded ‘Best Original Score’ at the 2011 St Kilda Film Festival. The film went on to receive a BAFTA La (British Academy of Film and TV Los Angeles) prize, was nominated for 2012 AACTA award (best short fiction film) and was screened at Gallipoli 2015 for the centenary dawn service.
She is currently completing the score for an independent short film ‘Halfbeard’ due for release later in 2015.
Petra is represented by Alberts Music Publishing.