“The Golden Age of Ballet”

  • Escape from reality for the common man of Europe
  • Women became stars of the ballet
  • Stories of: Fairy tales, romantic love, ghostly creatures falling in love with mortal men, dead maidens rising from the grave
  • Female spirits = white tutus, fairy wings, dancing on tiptoe (illusion of floating)
  • sur les points = on the tips of the toes

5 Superstars

  • Marie Taglioni  (1804-84), Swedish-Italian dancer, the most important ballerina of her era, who established the delicate, ethereal style of early romantic ballet. Born in Stockholm, she studied with her father, the Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni (1777-1871), and made her debut in Vienna in 1822. In Paris she created the title role in her father’s La Sylphide (1832), inaugurating the romantic era in ballet. In this role she became one of the first women to dance en pointe (on the tips of the toes). At the same time she introduced the bell-like skirt and tight-fitting bodice that became the classical costume of 19th-century ballet.
  • Fanny Elssler (1810-84), Austrian dancer, one of the most celebrated names in ballet history. Born in Vienna, she was the daughter of a copyist and valet for the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. Her debut at the Vienna Hoftheater in 1822 was the occasion for her first meeting with her lifelong rival, the Swedish-Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni. Throughout their careers the two dancers inspired heated arguments among critics; Taglioni was known as cool, ethereal, and sylphlike, and Elssler as earthy and voluptuous. Elssler’s lasting contribution was to introduce fiery Hungarian, Polish, and Spanish character dances to ballet.
  • Fanny Cerrito – real name Francesca Cerrito (1817-1909), Italian ballerina, one of the most brilliant, vivacious dancers and one of the few female choreographers of the 19th century. Born in Naples, she studied under the celebrated Italian teacher Carlo Blasis (1797-1878) and the noted French choreographers Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Léon (1821-70; her favorite partner and, from 1845 to 1851, her husband). She was famous for her role in Perrot’s Ondine (1843) and Pas de quatre (1845). Gemma (1854), using her own choreography, was another of her famous roles.
  • Lucile Grahn (1819-1907), Danish ballerina and choreographer, one of the four dancers honored in the famous ballet Pas de quatre (1845). Born in Copenhagen, she was trained under the Danish choreographer August Bournonville, who created his version (1836) of La Sylphide for her. She left Denmark in 1839 and danced internationally until 1856. Later ballet mistress of the Munich Opera, she choreographed ballets for many operas, including the German composer Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
  • Carlotta Grisi – real name Caronne Adele Josephine Marie Grisi (1819-99), Italian dancer, one of the leading romantic ballerinas. Born in Visinada, she joined La Scala opera ballet in Milan in 1829. Later she was the student and mistress of the famous French choreographer Jules Perrot. She was acclaimed for her creation of the title role inGiselle (1841), to a scenario written for her by the French poet Théophile Gautier. Other important roles were in Esmeralda (1844) and Pas de quatre (1845).
  • ballet blanc – white ballets; featured stage full of dancers in white tutus being lit from the floor, dancing on the tips of their toes so as to look “otherworldly” like ghosts
  • pointe shoes – developed out of the popularity of ballet blanc dancing; reinforced shoes that allowed dancers to stay up on their toes for longer periods of time
  • pointe dancing – dancing on the tips of your toes; pointe shoes developed out of the popularity of this type of dancing; skirts also became shorter in order to show more complicated steps

Carlo Blasis

  • Italian dancer, teacher, choreographer; developed Code of Terpsicore in 1830
  • Code of Terpsicore – book written by Carlo Blasis in 1830; described his method of education for the teaching of ballet; first used in the Imperial Academy of Dancing and Pantomime (Milan)

Other Important Developments

  • Audience began to feel that only female dancers possessed the grace and body structure to play the part of supernatural creatures on stage, perfect ballet was female-only
  • Theophile Gautier – dance critic; changed popular opinion to the point where males were looked upon as too big and ugly to dance ballet
  • Jules Janin (The Romantic Ballet in Paris, Janin quoted by Ivor Guest): “You know perhaps that we are hardly a supporter of what are called grand danseurs (male dancers). The grand danseur appears to us so sad and so heavy! …He responds to nothing, he represents nothing, he is nothing. Speak to us of a pretty dancing girl who displays the grace of her features and the elegance of her figure… But a man, frightful and ugly as you and I … that this fellow should dance as a woman does — impossible!”
  • Male roles played by females
  • Complete reversal of early court ballets
  • Men uninterested in ballet career
  • Result: no great male dancers
  • Female stars popularity began to decline, so did interest in ballet (Europe, late 1800s)

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