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Flash 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.

Above 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 grave.

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 imprint.

Pointe 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.

Maina Gielgud, 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 paul@danceinsider.com

Shoes for Taglioni: 17 pairs from dance insiders around the world.

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