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Flash Tribute, 4-23: The First
HAPPY 200TH BIRTHDAY, MARIE TAGLIONI

By Paolo Grossi
Cultural Attache, Italian Cultural Institute

 
Marie Taglioni as "La Sylphide." Colored lithograph; 52 x 33.2 cm. Engr. by Cattier after A. Deveria. Pub. by Goupil and Vibert, n.d. Image courtesy Dance Books Ltd.

(Editor's Note: On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Marie Taglioni, a delegation from the international dance community, including Sophie Parcen of the Paris Opera Ballet, will be laying more than three dozen pairs of pointe shoes on Taglioni's grave at the Montmartre Cemetery today, including Parcen's, seven pairs signed by the female dancers of The Australian Ballet , and 29 pairs donated by Bloch. The party will meet just inside the cemetery entrance at the end of the rue Rachel, between 5 and 5:15 p.m. Cultural Attache Grossi sent the following message to be read during the ceremonies.)

PARIS -- Marie Taglioni played a fundamental role in the history of European classical dance. Revered as the "Queen of Dance" at the Paris Opera from 1827 onwards, she was straightaway acknowledged as the protagonist of a revolution in the art of the ballet. At the time, Castil-Blaze wrote, "The debut of this sylphide in Paris marks the fourth epoch of theatrical dance."

Admired by kings, artists and poets (Victor Hugo dedicated a book "to her feet, to her wings"), Marie Taglioni has even left her trace on the French language: the verb "taglionniser" appeared, to convey how original her style was.

Without rival in European dance in the 1830s and '40s, Marie was applauded throughout Europe, from Saint Petersburg to London, Berlin and Vienna. In the latter city, she took 42 curtain calls after a memorable performance that literally enraptured the public.

On her return to Paris in 1843, Berlioz remarked "the surprise of 2,000 spectators who rushed to celebrate her return, and found this splendid talent younger, stronger, and more self-assured than ever before." And he added: "I shall leave to the poets who write reviews the task of describing so unknown a dance, so tender and melancholic a joy, so chaste a passion, a swallow's flight over the surface of the water." But it would be vain to attempt to summarize in a few words the stages of a brilliant career that aroused the enthusiasm of the greatest composers of the day, from Rossini to Donizetti, Spontini and Strauss.

Without Marie Taglioni, so it is said, there would never have been stars of the dance such as Sofia Fuoco, Tamara Karsavina, Isadora Duncan or Anna Pavlova. Two centuries from the date of her birth, Marie Taglioni lives on, venerated and admired by all those who believe in in the dance.

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