According to Dr. Ursel Berger, this rare first version of George Kolbe's Tänzer Nijinsky was cast between 1913-1915. There are two other examples in public collections in the Kunstmuseum, Winterthur and the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge. The early date of the present cast is supported by the presence of an old bore hole and screw where a high stone base that appears in historical photographs was attached, and by the abbreviated form of the foundry mark that was typical of the Noack foundry's unsystematic mark in the early years. Kolbe enlisted in the army in 1915 and did not produce the second version of this piece until after World War I. The later version of Tänzer Nijinsky is taller by one centimeter and was produced in an edition of twenty.
Vaslav Nijinsky joined Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1909 and took Paris by storm in his debut, earning the accolade "le dieu de la danse." Kolbe first saw the Russian dancer perform in the ballet Les Orientales in 1910. The expression and beauty of Nijinsky's movements impressed Kolbe who later visited the dancer in his studio. Kolbe may also have been inspired by the Mouvement de danse series that Rodin was working on during this period and which he may have seen when he visited Rodin's studio in Meudon in 1909. The resulting sculpture is a harmony of form and gesture presenting us with an idealized image of the dancer, legendary for his spectacular leaps and sensitive interpretations.