Marie Taglioni

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Marie Taglioni
Lithograph by Chalon and Lane of Marie Taglioni as Flora in Didelot's Zéphire et Flore. London, 1831 (Victoria and Albert Museum/Sergeyev Collection)
Born (1804-04-23)April 23, 1804
Stockholm, Sweden
Died April 22, 1884(1884-04-22) (aged 79)
Marseille, France
Nationality Italian/Swedish
Occupation danseuse
Years active 1824–1847
Known for La Sylphide, other romantic ballets
Parents Filippo Taglioni and Sophie Karsten
Relatives Paul Taglioni (brother)

Marie Taglioni (April 23, 1804 – April 22, 1884) was an Italian/Swedish ballet dancer of the Romantic ballet era, a central figure in the history of European dance. She was one of the most celebrated ballerinas of the romantic ballet, which was cultivated primarily at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, and at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique of the Paris Opera Ballet.


Taglioni was born in Stockholm, Sweden, to the Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni and the Swedish ballet dancer Sophie Karsten, maternal granddaughter of the Swedish opera singer Christoffer Christian Karsten and of the Polish opera singer and actress Sophie Stebnowska. Her brother, Paul (1808–1884), was also a dancer and an influential choreographer; they performed together early in their careers. Taglioni was married to Comte Auguste Gilbert de Voisins on July 14, 1832, but separated shortly after in 1836 after the birth of their daughter, Eugenie-Marie Edwige. Taglioni moved to Vienna with her family at a very young age where she began her ballet training under the direction of her very own father. Fillipo created a rigorous training regiment for her daughter that consisted of holding positions for 100 counts and engaging in two hour long intervals of conditioning exercises, adagio, and jumping combinations. In Vienna, Marie danced her first ballet choreographed by her father titled "La Reception d'une Jeune Nymphe à la Cour de Terpsichore".

Before joining the Paris Opéra, Taglioni danced in both Munich and Stuttgart, and at age 23 debuted in another ballet choreographed by her father called "La Sicilien" that jumpstarted her ballet career. Taglioni rose to fame as a danseuse at the Paris Opéra when her father created the ballet La Sylphide (1832) for her. Designed as a showcase for Taglioni's talent, it was the first ballet where dancing en pointe had an aesthetic rationale and was not merely an acrobatic stunt, often involving ungraceful arm movements and exertions, as had been the approach of dancers in the late 1820s. Suffering from back abnormalities, Taglioni compensated for a hunchback by leading her movements with her arms and upper body while on pointe, keeping her legs slightly behind her. The resulting positions she made precedented a whole new aesthetic of romanticism that transformed a ballerina into the sylph-like characters seen "La Sylphide", "Les Sylphides", and "Giselle". Also trademarked were her head position, slightly tilted while glancing at the audience ("epaulement"), as well as her port de bras with her arms either outstretched in third arabesque, or crossed in front of her chest with a forefinger extended beneath her chin. With her growing success and much admired balletic qualities, Taglioni became known as the "christian" dancer by dance critic Theophile Gautier for her purity of movement. Much admired during that time, too was Taglioni's ballet rival, Fanny Elssler, who had been brought to the Paris Opéra in 1834. Gautier compared the two ballerinas, although designated Elssler the "pagan" dancer for her slightly more vivacious style. Taglioni was also known for shortening her skirt in the performance of La Sylphide, which was considered highly scandalous at the time. She shortened all of her skirts to show off her excellent pointe work, which the long skirts hid. Taglioni's father was approving of the shortening of the skirt because he also wanted everyone to see how good his daughter was en pointe.These bell-shaped skirts, proposed by the original costumer of "La Sylphide" Eugene Lami, popularized over time and may now be referred to as the standard romantic tutu.

In 1827 Taglioni left the Ballet of Her Majesty's Theatre to take up a three-year contract in Saint Petersburg with the Imperial Ballet (known today as the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet). It was in Russia after her last performance in the country (1842) and at the height of the "cult of the ballerina", that a pair of her pointe shoes were sold for two hundred rubles, reportedly to be cooked, served with a sauce and eaten by a group of balletomanes.[1] In July 1845, she danced with Lucile Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, and Fanny Cerrito in Jules Perrot's Pas de Quatre, a ballet representing Taglioni’s ethereal qualities that was based on Alfred-Edouard Chalon’s lithographic prints. "Pas de Quatre" was originally choreographed to be presented to Queen Victoria.

Taglioni retired from performing in 1847; for a time she took up residence at the Ca' d'Oro on the Grand Canal in Venice. When the ballet of the Paris Opéra was reorganized on stricter, more professional lines, she was its guiding spirit. With the director of the new Conservatoire de danse, Lucien Petipa, and Petipa's former pupil, the choreographer Louis Mérante, she figured on the six-member select jury of the first annual competition for the corps de ballet, held April 13, 1860.

Later she taught social dance and ballroom to children and society ladies in London; she also took a limited number of ballet pupils. Her only choreographic work was Le papillon (1860) for her student Emma Livry, who is remembered for dying in 1863 when her costume was set alight by a gas lamp used for stage lighting. Johann Strauss II composed the "Marie Taglioni Polka" (Op. 173) in honour of Marie's niece, Marie "Paul" Taglioni, also known as Marie the Younger. The two Marie's are often confused.

Taglioni died in Marseille on April 22, 1884.

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  1. ^ Kassing, Gayle (2007). History of dance: an interactive arts approach. Human Kinetics. p. 131. 


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