The Rise and Fall of the Romantic Ballet

Lithograph by an unknown artist of Carlotta Grisi in the title role of Giselle, Paris, 1841
Public Domain

The Romantic Ballet era is recognised as starting with La Sylphide in Paris in 1832, launching Maria Taglioni’s career.  The high point of the Romantic Ballet was Giselle in 1841, also premièred in Paris.  However with the ascendancy of the ballerina it was an era that signalled the decline of the role of the male dancer. This can be seen in the last great ballet of the Second Empire, Coppélia (1870), in which the role of Franz was danced by Eugénie Fiocre en travestiCoppélia promised a new era, taking ballet away from the realms of sylphs, nymphs and ondines, to a real world with a strong female heroine as the lead; however this promise was never fulfilled due to the devastation wrought by the Franco-Prussian War. 

Through studying these three iconic ballets we can trace the development of the art of the narrative ballet, each contributing something unique to this story.  It speaks of their endurance that all three are not only still danced by the leading ballet companies of the world, but are seen as benchmarks for a company.  Each ballet has a fascinating story to tell not only of the history of ballet itself but also set against the volatile history of Europe, and France in particular.

Presentation: this presentation is illustrated by PowerPoint slides, along with archive film clips and DVDs shown to illustrate the topic.

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