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Birthday Card, 4-26: Home
Bonne Anniversaire #201, Marie Taglioni
Copyright 2005 The Dance Insider
PARIS -- When Marie
Taglioni authority Pierre Lacotte interrupted my presentation last
fall on Dance Insider readers' campaign to place pointe shoes on
Taglioni's deteriorating grave at the Montmartre Cemetery to announce,
"It's not her grave, it's her mother's. She's
in Pere Lachaise," I have to admit that as the audience at the Italian
Institute, which was co-sponsoring the Marie Taglioni bicentennial
conference with the Dance Insider, let out a collective gasp, I
initially felt deflated. (Not to mention deceived; according to
the official map of the Montmartre Cemetery, it was indeed Marie
Taglioni who was buried there.) Had our efforts to preserve what
we thought, with good reason, to be the final resting place of the
first dancer to use pointe artistically been in vain?
I soon realized the
answer was no -- even if Taglioni's real grave is well-tended, it
is not well-marked, and her legacy remains neglected, so our efforts
to celebrate it were not for naught. After I got over the shock,
I was also relieved; we did not have so much work cut out for us
after all. We no longer needed to worry about raising funds to restore
what just about everyone believed to be the tomb of the pioneer of pointe. On later visiting the real grave, where Taglioni's
grandson Augusto had her moved from Marseille fifty years after
her death and which she shares with a few family members, we realized
we still had work to do: Her name is barely legible, and there is
no indication of her accomplishment. (By contrast, the nearby urn
shelf of modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan sports an identifying
plaque donated by the School of the Paris Opera Ballet.) She is
not listed on the map of, perhaps, the most famous cemetery in the
world. (Jim Morrison, Yves Montand, Camille Pissarro, Sarah Bernhardt,
and Frederick Chopin are just some of the luminaries buried there.
Alwin Nikolais also has a shelf in the massive columbarium, on the
same floor as Duncan.) Up until recently, the stationary maps at the Montmartre
Cemetery still misinformed visitors that she was there.
After Sophia Parcen -- the Paris Opera Ballet dancer who helped
us organize and performed at the bicentennial tribute -- and I visited
Pere Lachaise Saturday to pay our respects on the occasion of MT's
201st birthday, and on again viewing the solidity of her real grave,
I again felt that sense of relief and, at the risk of sounding boastful,
accomplishment. If the complete tombstone restoration we envisioned
four years ago was not necessary, in fact it was the efforts of
the Dance Insider community which revealed to most of the world
where Taglioni was really buried, and that her grave was, after
all, in pretty good shape. If we -- with your vital support and
encouragement, dance insider -- hadn't launched this campaign, in
other words, most dancers and dance fans would not know where she
was. And even if the shoes Dance Insider readers sent from all over
the world to be placed on Taglioni's grave were ultimately, it turned
out, placed on her mother's grave, it doesn't alter the love --
for their pioneer and thus their art -- that dancers demonstrated
by this gesture.
Sophia placed many of
those shoes on the grave on the 200th anniversary of Taglioni's
birth, which ceremony you can read about and see photographs of
here. To read more about Taglioni and the DI's
efforts over the past four years to preserve her legacy, just visit
the Dance Insider search page and enter the magic word "Taglioni"
in the search window.
PS: It felt a little
morbid -- and perhaps ungrateful, as she did after all give birth
to Marie -- to even consider moving the pointe shoes from her mother
Sophia's grave to Taglioni's. However, I think it's time we start
building a new pile on the real grave; as mentioned above, while
in sterling shape, it still offers no indication of just who Taglioni
was. There are three pairs there now -- from DI webmistress and
dancer Robin Hoffman, and from Parcen -- and we'd like to add more.
If you have some 'dead' pointe shoes you'd like us to place on the
grave of the effective mother of pointe, please write me
for details on where to send them.
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