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How Did They Do That?or Did They Really Do That?


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#1 Hans

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 07:40 AM

I have a specific question to ask on this thread but would like to leave it open to others as well, to ask how the special effects one hears about in Romantic ballet were done. I think we all know most, if not all, of the La Sylphide tricks, but I want to ask if Marie Taglioni really did stand on a rose in L'Ombre as the lithograph shows, and if so, how did they do it? was the rose made of iron with a little flat platform behind it? The caption of the lithograph in my book implies that she did: "The famous ballerina is captured, in this coloured lithograph by J. Bouvier, dancing the pas de fleurs, in which she gave proof of her extraordinary lightness," but doesn't say for sure. Any takers?

#2 rg

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 07:50 AM

i think there is a picture w/ caption in fonteyn's magic of the dance book. i believe the 'device' was similar to that employed recently in the kirov's 'reconstructed' sleepingbeauty, where aurora stands momentarily on pointe, poised on a sea shell: in this case the shell was fitted with a little, molded, dent/support to take the weight of her foot/shoe/etc. in the case of this effect i think she also has help from some of her sister visions. in the 'rose' instance in think the prop was fitted with a little 'toe cup' for supporting the slippered foot, and i think the effect was known as a 'toe hold'
i'll try to look up the book and illustration and cite it further when i find time.
others may know more specifics here, and/or have had experience w/ such effects on stage or w/ literature concerning stage 'machinery.'

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 07:57 AM

There's a reference in Bournonville's "Theater Life" to a ballerina standing on a wooden flower (I believe it was in Kermesse). (It was Juliette Price, and she sustained a career-ending injury when she fell off said flower.)

#4 rg

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 08:02 AM

found it: it turns out, unbeknownst to me when i was relating the effect to one in the kirov's 'beauty' that fonteyn actually also mentions the shell 'toe hold' as it was utilized in the '39 beauty w/ sadler's wells. i did not know this fact and have only now fixed on it when prompted to look up the illus. by this post.
so thanks for the prompt. i'm very glad to know this.
in any case fonteyn's explication, not overly detailed but clear, is on p. 155 of the knopf version of 'magic of the dance' and the text carries on to p. 158, w/ the print of taglioni - on p. 159.
the print, btw, reveals much poetic license: all indication of any device/mechanism is absent and marie t. appears to have alighted, w/ no visible means of support, on the center of a delicate and tiny rose. my hunch is that the device was actually concealed in an arrangement of petals and that most of the foot (or at least the shoe's toe-tip) was hidden by the petal disguised device. but i'm only guessing.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 02:02 PM

Of course, it's just possible that she could also have been getting a little lift from flying wires not unlike the ones worn by both title characters in "Flore et Zephyre"

#6 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 03:23 PM

Flying wires were much in use in those days. There is an old court theatre in Sweden, The Drottningholm Theater (near the Drottningholm Palace, the residence of the King and Queen). The theater still has and uses a lot of the old stage machinery. Somewhere I have an old photo of Ellen Rasch flying in over the stage suspended in wires from act II of Giselle.
Otherwise, lithographs were very much poetic licence.


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