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Flash News, 9-8: The Taglioni Insider

By Dance Insider Staff
Copyright 2004 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- Pierre Lacotte, whose 1971 reconstruction of Filippo Taglioni's "La Sylphide" is considered the authoritative version, has accepted the Italian Institute's invitation to participate in the Homage to Marie Taglioni and Discussion of the State of her Legacy being hosted by the Institute and produced by the Dance Insider September 30 at the historic Hotel de Galliffet, in honor of the great ballerina's bicentennial.

The tribute and discussion are part of the Dance Insider's efforts to revive the memory of Marie Taglioni, who elevated dance when she rose onto her pointes for the March 12, 1832 premiere of her father's "La Sylphide," becoming the first dancer to use pointe artistically. The ballet, first seen at the Theatre de l'Academie Royale de Musique in Paris, was reprised this summer by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Garnier Opera House, in Lacotte's version.

If Taglioni's legacy has to an extent endured, her memory is threatened, as evidenced by the deteriorating state of her grave at the Montmartre cemetery, just yards from the far better kept-up grave of Vaslav Nijinsky. "Every time I see that grave, I cry," said DI editor and publisher Paul Ben-Itzak. "Its upkeep, or lack of upkeep, can't help but reflect on the field of dance, ballet as well as modern. Our overriding mission is to restore the grave and by so doing affirm that dance values its pioneers and thus the traditions of artistry they've passed down to us. The September 30 tribute to Marie Taglioni is both a celebration and a means to this end, and the presence of Sophia Parcen, San Francisco Ballet's Muriel Maffre and now Pierre Lacotte add vital luster to this event and our efforts."

Trained at the Paris Opera Ballet school and in parallel by Lubov Egorova and Carlotta Zambelli, Pierre Lacotte joined the Paris Opera Ballet corps in 1946, at the age of 14, becoming a premier danseur in 1951. He founded his own company, Les Ballets de la Tour Eiffel, in 1955, producing a season at the Theatre des Champs Elysees. Around the same time, he danced with Melissa Hayden as a guest artist for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, in London with Violette Verdy, and elsewhere. In 1963, Lacotte became director of the Ballets des Jeunesses Musicales de France, creating works including "Hamlet" and "La Voix," a collaboration with Edith Piaf. In 1968, working on a book about the Romantic ballet, he began to delve into documents related to Filippo Taglioni's 'Sylphide,' in the process discovering the existence of Marie Taglioni's dispersed archives.

"Pierre Lacotte's lifetime obsession with and devotion to the Romantic ballet, particularly his tireless work restoring Taglioni's 'Sylphide,' make him essential to any discussion of Marie Taglioni and her legacy," Ben-Itzak said.

Lacotte was also one of a handful of Paris Opera dancers who assisted Rudolf Nureyev's dramatic 1961 defection to the West at Paris's Le Bourget airport.

In discussing Taglioni's legacy at the September 30 event, Lacotte will be joined by San Francisco Ballet principal and French-trained dancer Muriel Maffre, who will read Theophile Gautier's review of Taglioni's dramatic 1844 return to the Paris Opera stage and 'Sylphide,' Ben-Itzak, and Robin Hoffman, the Dance Insider's webmistress and art director. The discussion will be preceded by a demonstration by Parcen and by a presentation by Hoffman utilizing photographs by leading dance photographers Ellen Crane, Julie Lemberger, and Marty Sohl.

The Taglioni homage is part of the city-wide Stranger in the City festival being sponsored by the Forum des Instituts Culturels Etrangers a Paris. Entrance to the event, which starts at 8:30 p.m., is free. The Hotel de Gallifet is located at 73, rue de Grenelle, in Paris's 7th quarter.

The Dance Insider has found a specialist in monument restoration who is currently preparing an estimate of the cost of fully restoring Taglioni's grave, following which the DI will launch a campaign to pay for the restoration.

The DI is also offering free dance company advertising to sponsors and supports of its Taglioni Bicentennial Celebrations. For more information, please click here or e-mail DI publisher Paul Ben-Itzak.

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