His name is also written Waslaw Fomitsj/Fomich Nizhinskij. Born in Kiev, he died in London.
He was born into a family of dancers who had their own dancing company. His father was Thomas Laurentiyevich and his mother was Eleonora Bereda who were both celebrated dancers of Polish descent. At the age of nine, Vaslav Nijinsky and his sister Bronislava Nijinska trained at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg and after he had graduated in 1907 at the age of 18.
He started his career in the Imperial Ballet, being "kept" by wealthy aristocrat Prince Pavel Lvov as his lover. He then appeared in ballet at the Marinsky Theatre, but was forced to resign from the ballet company because of his refusal to wear a jockstrap during a performance of Giselle.
In 1908, Vaslav met Sergei Diaghilev and began a five-year professional and personal relationship. He became the leading dancer in Diaghilev's Ballets Russe which performed in Paris in 1909. Vaslav Nijinsky and Sergei Diaghilev became lovers. Vaslav was successful as a dancer and choregrapher while he was Diaghilev's lover. He performed in Michel Fokine's Pavilion d'Armide (1909), and Michel Fokine's Spectre de la Rose (1911).
Vaslav was more and more popular, and in 1911 appeared in the first performance of Igor Stravinsky's ballet Petrushka. In 1912 Vaslav began to choreograph his own performances and he produced landmark and controversial ballets such as Claude Debussy's L'Après-midi d'un Faune (The Afternoon of a Faun), where Vaslav features his most famous role, the faun... and his most sensuous costume, by Leon Bakst.
He then performed Le Dieu en Bleu (1912), and Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring, 1913).
He rejected the conventional forms of classical ballets in favour of free expression; his technique was powerful but graceful at the same time.
The relationship between Sergei Diaghilev and Vaslav Nijinsky began to sour as Sergei showed his jealousy and possessiveness.
In 1913, while in Buenos Aires, Vaslav was in a panic and married with the Hungarian dancer Romola, Countess Pulszky-Lubocy-Cselfalva... and went mad.
He was interned in Hungary, as a Russian subject, during the early part of World War I. His fourth and last choreography was Till Eulenspiegel (1916).
He rejoined Sergei Diaghilev's company but was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 1917.
Diaghilev refused to have anything further to do with Nijinsky, who danced for the last time in 1919. Vaslav lived in various sanatoriums in Switzerland, France, and England, where he died.