Marie Taglioni, credited with being the first pointe dancer, was born on April 23, 1804. Taglioni is best known for her starring role in La Sylphide, a role developed specifically for her by her father, the famous choreographer Filippo Taglioni.
Marie’s life was one of incredible stardom, single handedly sparking “The Cult of The Ballerina” and helping develop ballet’s romantic era. Her fame has lived on centuries later and will be in history books as long as ballet exists.
Marie Taglioni was born to a family of dancers in Stockholm, Sweden. Her father danced with the Paris Opera Ballet and moved to Sweden to become the ballet master of the Royal Swedish Ballet. It was in Sweden that Filippo married Sophie Karsten, a principal of the same company. Together they had two children, Paul and Marie, who would go on to become famous dancers themselves.
Marie started her dance lessons at a young age, but was dismissed by her teacher at six years old due to her hunchback. Her teacher was credited with wondering if “the little hunchback” would ever be able to dance. Her father took on the responsibility of teaching Marie and was extremely strict, teaching her six hours a day.
Marie’s debut was not until 1822 in Vienna, when she was 18. It was in the ballet La Reception d’une jeune nymphe a la tour de Terpsichore, which was choreographed by her father. The dancer who would grow to be her biggest rival, Fanny Elssler, danced in the corps de ballet in this performance.
By 23, Marie had signed a contract with the Paris Opera Ballet, where she would perform for the next ten years.
Marie Taglioni's Career
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.
Marie was married briefly to Count Gelbeit de Voisins. The two were married in 1834, and though Marie had two children around this time, it is not certain that they belonged to de Voisins. However, both children received the last name of her husband. They were divorced one to three years later. It is unclear who raised her children or what became of them.
Marie Taglioni was undoubtedly the most famous ballerina of her – and perhaps, all – time. She had dolls made of her, merchandise bearing her name, hairstyles and cakes named for her, and in one very strange and notable instance, a pair of her pointe shoes were bought, prepared, and eaten by a group of fans.
In 1884, the day before her 80th birthday, Marie Taglioni died.
Kendall grew up in Raleigh, NC where she studied ballet, modern, and jazz under the direction of Sandra Zellinger, Cherilyn Joy Lee, and Andrew Lamar. She has performed with Carolina Ballet in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid on various occasions. In 2016 and 2017, Kendall taught alongside Willie Hinton at the Carolina Ballet Summer Intensive. After acceptance into the Joffrey school at age 10, she decided to stay in North Carolina to complete a study of the Cecchetti Method with Rosina DeVries. She has completed grades I-VI, scoring Highly Commended or Commended on all levels. She is now working toward undergraduate degrees in Advertising and Public Relations as well as a minor in dance at Appalachian State University while in her third year of teaching at a local studio.