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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Original Black Swan:Marie Taglioni

copyright 2011 art of living,PrimaMedia,Inc

Guest Blogger: Lisa Zatulovsky

She never danced in Swan Lake and all but for that, she could be considered the Original Black Swan for her magnificent technique...On March 12, 1832 at the Paris Opera, ballerina, Marie Taglioni captivated audiences with her portrayal of the delicate yet flirtatious spirit known as La Sylphide. Taglioni danced the role of a Sylph- a fairy-spirit who distracts a Scottish man, James from marrying his fiancée. Chasing the elusive Sylph, James unintentionally destroys her when he tries to capture her with poisonous scarf. Dressed in a white corset, long tulle tutu and sheer wings covered in peacock feathers, Taglioni looked as though she had no flesh or bones, practically floating across the stage. The pearls that adorned her neck and wrists looked heavier than she.
Taglioni was born in Stockholm, Sweden to Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni and Swedish dancer Sophie Karsten. Marie moved to Vienna at a young age with her family. Taglioni rigorously studied ballet in Vienna with her father Filippo, a dancer and ballet choreographer. Filippo created La Sylphide, specifically for her to showcase her ethereal dancing and strong technique, which allowed her to dance on her toes. By putting cardboard and glue in her satin ballet shoes, Taglioni transformed herself into an otherworldly being. Although the minimal amount of support is far different than modern day pointe shoes, Taglioni helped to renovate ballet to a serious work of art that elevated dancers to another dimension.
The creation of Filippo’s ballet and his daughter’s gifts set the groundwork for a new genre of ballet romanticism. Famous romantic ballets such as La Sylphide, Giselle, and Pas de Quatre are very recognizable by their movements and costumes. Characterized by exaggerated forward tilts of the torso, and soft rounded arm movements, the dancing is understated and elegant. Like Taglioni’s costume, most dancers in romantic ballets wear long tulle skirts that stop below the middle of the calf. This gives the illusion of transparency and showcases the dancers’ feet and fluid arms. Filippo unknowingly epitomized the famous arm movements to cover up what he though was one of his daughters unattractive qualities, her long thin arms. In order to hide this apparent unsightliness, (which was not considered desirable at the time) Filippo had his daughter continually round her arms and cross them in front of her body displaying her delicate wrists in order to give the appearance of shorter arms. This famous position is now quintessentially used in all romantic ballets.
After the premiere of La Sylphide, the ballet was widely received as an instant success. Ballet was still primarily used to showcase men’s talents and female dancers were not the main attraction. Taglioni’s 26-year career gave ballerinas widely deserved recognition with their spellbinding dancing and femininity. Her performance made art lovers realize that ballet was a legitimate art and not just entertainment. Taglioni excited audiences with her dancing and performed extensively throughout Europe. As one of the first documented ballerinas to dance on pointe in a full-length ballet, Taglioni influenced dancers for generations to come through her use of pointe shoes, romanticism and artistry.
She retired and spent some of her retirement years living on the Grand Canal in Venice. However when she performed her last ballet in Russia in 1842, she had somewhat of a cult following with the 'ballet maniacs' of that time. Her pointe shoes were auctioned off for 200 rubles and legend has it that they were cooked, served with a sauce and eaten by 'ballet maniacs”.

For more info on Italian culture, culinary events go to
Upcoming appearances of Award Winning Author Maria Liberati
May 14th-Fante's Kitchenware store on 9th street in the Italian Market-1-3 PM Maria will be doing a book signing of her latest award wining book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions- winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award

1 comment:

Rose said...

Fabulous! Such an interesting article. Honestly, ballet teachers everywhere should print this off and read it to their dancers.
Just sounds like something every ballet dancer should know. :)