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Tribute and Announcement, 4-23: A notre mere bien aimee
Shoes, and More, for Taglioni
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Photography by Maina Gielgud, Rosa Mei, and PBI
Design by Robin Hoffman
Research by Nicole Pope
PARIS -- She was the
first. The Mother. The George Washington of Dance, lifting it into
its romantic prime with her elongated arms, elevating its potential
with her light and yet strong feet. "The elegiac chooses the symbolic
and abstract language of dance steps," wrote her biographer, Andre
Levinson, in 1929. "With her body she traces hieroglyphics, legible
signs made indelible through her emotion." And yet today, on what
would have been Marie Taglioni's 199th birthday, her grave lies
in disrepair, a broken nameplate coming off it with a fissure between
the words "Marie" and "Taglioni," and the inscription "A sa mere
bien aimee," or, "to her (or his) beloved mother." (Lifting the
plaque, one sees that on the previous nameplate, all that could
be afforded was "Marie T.") If her tombstone is not kept up, her
name, outside of dance, is all but forgotten, and her legacy in
peril. If we let the name and all it stands for continue to slide
into oblivion, we accelerate the demise of dance as it already precariously
stands today, the least-respected of the arts, the least "understood,"
and in many ways, the one with the least self-respect.
left: At the grave of Marie Taglioni at the Montmartre Cemetery
in Paris, decorated by pointe shoes from dance insiders. Right:
DI publisher Paul Ben-Itzak adjusts the pointe shoes on Taglioni's
Nearly two years ago,
Dance Insider readers began a campaign to pile pointe shoes on Taglioni's
grave in the Montmartre Cemetery, where she rests in the shadow
of the much more redolently appointed tomb of Vaslav Nijinsky. (See
accompanying photos.) The idea was to pile them so high on her grave
that anyone 'visiting' Nijinsky would see them, wander over, and
ask, "Who was she?" But it's not enough to restore the lustre to
Taglioni's grave. Her story -- her life on and off the stage --
must be recalled too, in performance and words, its ramifications
in her time and today examined. The state of her legacy must also
be considered and addressed. To that end, the Dance Insider is honored
today to announce the Marie Taglioni Bicentennial Conference and
Gala, to be held next spring in Paris, where she made her most indelible
shoes, including one with Labanotation from DI webmistress Robin
Hoffman (upper right), at the grave of Marie Taglioni.
Maina Gielgud, former artistic
director of the Australian Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet, dancer
and stager for Maurice Bejart, and incoming artistic associate of
the Houston Ballet, will chair the Bicentennial. Stephan Laurent,
chairman of the dance department at Butler University, will co-chair.
Ms. Gielgud's staging of the Ballet du Rhin's new production of "Giselle"
opens next Friday in Mulhouse, France. "The Willow Maiden," a new
evening-length ballet co-choreographed by Professor Laurent on the
Butler Ballet, opens this Friday.
former artistic director of the Australian and Royal Danish
Ballets and chair of the Taglioni Bicentennial, unfastens the
ribbons on her pointe shoes before laying them on the grave.
For more information
on the Marie Taglioni Bicentennial Conference and Gala, and on how
you can become involved as a performer, writer, or sponsor, please
contact Paul Ben-Itzak by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Taglioni: 17 pairs from dance insiders around the world.
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