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The Buzz, 8-16: The Phantom of the Opera
When will the Paris Opera Ballet do Right by Marie Taglioni?

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2007 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS -- Nearly three years after a Dance Insider - Italian Institute conference revealed that Marie Taglioni is not buried where the City of Paris publicly claims she is but in another cemetery, the city continues to mislead the public, including dancers around the world, into believing that the mother of pointe is buried in the Montmarte cemetery. Meanwhile, while the Montmartre cemetery, operated by the city, has failed to live up to promises to remove Taglioni's name from two of its public maps -- even after its own records confirmed Dance Insider reports that it's not Taglioni, but her mother who is buried there -- she is not on the maps at Pere Lachaise and her name on the family tomb of the estranged husband where she's buried there is nearly impossible to read. Apart from three pairs of pointe shoes placed there by the Dance Insider and Paris Opera Ballet dancer Sophia Parcen, there is no indication that there lies one of the most fundamental dancers in history.

We have twice tried to get officials at the Montmartre cemetery to correct the situation, to no avail. The first time they promised to take Taglioni's names off the standing, permanent maps at the cemetery entrance and nearer to the grave, but did not; the second time the best they could offer was to obscure her name on the maps with tape, which quickly came off. (Paper maps handed out at the cemetery office do not have Taglioni's name.) As a dance journal, we cannot do any more. And to be frank, it's not our responsibility. Newspapers have a role in revealing the truth, and we at the Dance Insider -- and the international dance community we represent -- are proud to have facilitated this discovery. But once journalists reveal the truth -- and once officials have acknowledged it -- and after they have failed to act -- it's time for those in whose vested interest it is to force them to do so.

It is time for the Paris Opera Ballet and School, which owe their modern legacy to Marie Taglioni, to take some responsibility and to act on behalf of their peers in the international dance community. It is time for Brigitte Lefevre, dance director of the opera, and Elisabeth Platel, director of the ballet's school, to take some responsibility and assume a reconnaissance of the debt both their institutions owe Taglioni, the first dancer to use pointe to artistic effect and a prime mover in the modern construction of the school. The school was good enough to pay for a plaque to be placed under the urn of Isadora Duncan, also interred at Pere Lachaise. While this is certainly big thinking, how on earth can the school, and by association the opera, take care of the memory of the mother of modern dance, and not their own mother?


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