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Writers and Ballerinas

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We know that Theophile Gautier was in love with Carlotta Grisi and wrote the libretto for 'Giselle', with the help of his friend Vernoy de Saint-Georges.

Though Gautier fathered two of Grisi's sister's children, he loved Carlotta until his dying day.

In the book 'The Ballerinas' by Parmenia Migel, I've found a short poem written by Hans Christian Andersen for Lucile Grahn, that I wanted to share with all of you.

"The city on the Seine felt a doleful need,

When the sylph Taglioni resolved to go.

Then to France, Denmark sent her own sylphide.

A rosebud blossomed from the northern snow."

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There is a well-known poem of Voltaire decidated to Marie-Anne Cupis de Camargo and Marie Sallé:

"Ah !Camargo ! Que vous êtes brillante !

Mais que Sallé grand Dieu, est ravissante !

Elle est inimitable et vous êtes nouvelle.

Les Nymphes dansent comme vous

Mais les Grâces dansent comme elle !"

Which means more or less:

"Ah! Camargo! How brilliant you are!

But Sallé, great gods, is ravishing!

She 's inimitable and you are new.

The Nymphs dance like you

But the Graces dance like her!"

By the way, I've found the following site about dance history:


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I was very interested to read the Hans Andersen poem - I have just visited his birthplace and museum in Odense in Denmark. I knew he was interested in ballet - he even had lessons at the Danish ballet school in his youth, though I think he was too much of an Ugly Duckling to succeed at it, and had to be a writer in order to become a swan!

In Eugene Onegin, the Russian poet Pushkin gives this description of the ballerina Istomina:

The house is packed out; scintillating,

The boxes; boiling, pit and stalls;

The gallery claps - it's bored with waiting -

And up the rustling curtain crawls.

Then with a half-ethereal splendour,

Bound where the magic bow will send her,

Istomina, thronged all around

By Naiads, one foot on the ground,

Twirls the other slowly as she pleases,

Then suddenly she's off, and there

She's up and flying through the air

Like fluff before Aeolian breezes;

She'll spin this way and that, and beat

Against each other small swift feet.

I have an idea that Pushkin is very difficult to translate, but this one, by Charles Johnston, is the best I've seen.

Istomina (1799-1848) was a pupil of Didelot, and courted by Pushkin.

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