Marie Taglioni is best known for her starring role in La Sylphide, first performed in Paris in 1832 and the first ballet to be fully en pointe. Before La Sylphide, pointe work had been an acrobatic trick that was not very graceful or elegant. The ballet depicts Marie as a sylph, a spirit unattainable to humans. The tea-length romantic tutu Marie wore became the trademark of the romantic era of ballet.
Marie’s rivalry with Elssler reached the height of its tension when the latter was offered a contract with the Paris Opera, where Marie also worked, in 1834. Elssler accepted, but after a failed attempt at Taglioni’s leading role in La Sylphide, she moved to the US and removed herself from Taglioni completely.
Marie left the Paris Opera after signing a contract in 1837 with the Mariinsky Theatre where she would remain for another five years.
Over a decade after La Sylphide, in 1845, French choreographer Jules Perrot put together the most famous ballerinas of the time for a special piece designed for Queen Victoria titled Pas de quatre. Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito and Lucile Grahn performed the piece and it immediately took off (Elssler was part of the original cast, but declined and was replaced by Lucile Grahn). The piece showcased each of their individual talents and strengths to impress the Queen and the public.
Marie Taglioni retired in 1847, but continued to work because her fortune was spent by her father and ex-husband. Marie became Dance Inspector at the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1858.
Two years later, she debuted her only choreographic work, Le Papillon, made for her student Emma Livry. Unfortunately, Livry died on stage during a performance of Le Papillon only three years later after her costume caught fire.