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The Buzz, 1-20: Noces

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider
Photography by Rosa Mei

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Together Again

PARIS -- More than half a century after he was interred there, under overcast skies and an intermittent gentle but breezy drizzle, Vaslav Nijinsky's sepulchre in the Montmartre Cemetery was opened this morning so that his widow, Romola, could join him.

Romola's re-interment from a grave just yards away to Nijinsky's tomb on the graveyard's rue Samson was first reported in this morning's editions of le Parisien, and verified in person later this morning by the Dance Insider.
Vaslav -- and Romola -- Nijinsky's sepulchre at the Montmartre Cemetery. Dance Insider Photo by Rosa Mei.

Nijinsk's remains were moved to Montmartre in 1953, three years after his death in London at the age of 60, by his successor at the Ballets Russes, Serge Lifar, who refused to accede to Romola's wish that she be buried with her husband when her time came, according to le Parisien. The former Paris Opera Ballet director no doubt believed that the grave of a god should not be shared, the newspaper's Julie Cloris mused.

In 1970, the paper noted, none other than Picasso introduced Romola to Roland Dumas, an attorney who took her case to the courts, which rejected her request on the basis that cemeteries should not be disturbed. Until the Lifar and Nijinsky families could reach an accord, Tamara Nijinsky, Vaslav and Romola's daughter, agreed to wait. Romola passed away in 1978 of a painful cancer, reduced to living in servants' quarters in the Hotel Loti. "When she died," Dumas told le Parisien, "they had to take her coffin out through the kitchen."

Last year, 26 years after Romola's death, Lifar's widow, a Swedish countess living in Switzerland, granted Nijinsky's widow's request and allowed her to be buried with her husband. As of this morning, her name had not joined her husband's on the tomb -- but maybe that wouldn't have mattered to Romola.

Still in our Hearts, Still on the Wrong Map

While we're in the neighborhood: After we'd verified this morning that Nijinsky's tomb had indeed been opened (and the grave and its headstone re-sealed with cement), we stepped a few graves behind the Nijinskys' sepulchre to revisit the tomb marked "Marie Taglioni." The dozens of 'dead' pointe shoes donated by dance insiders all over the world were still there, sodden and seemingly grafted onto the grave. After a Dance Insider/Italian Institute conference and homage celebrating her bicentennial revealed last September that in fact it was not Marie Taglioni, but her mother, who was buried in the tomb, cemetery officials agreed to a Dance Insider request to obscure Taglioni's name from standing maps at the cemetery's entrance and nearer to Madame Taglioni's grave on the rue Samson. (Taglioni, specialist Pierre Lacotte revealed at the conference, is buried in Pere Lachaise -- where she is not on the map. Yet.)

Discovering this morning that the cemetery maps still indicated that "Marie Taglioni, danseuse" was buried there, we again entreated cemetery officials to remove or at least cover her name on the map, explaining that dancers from all over the world come to Paris to pay tribute to the first ballerina to use pointe artistically, and they shouldn't be directed to the wrong grave. After some huddling, officials of the Montmartre Cemetery agreed, again, to the DI's request to place non-transparent tape over Taglioni's name for now and to request from city cemetery officials that the next time new standing maps are made, she be deleted from them.




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