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French choreographer Henri Justamant?

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This week-end, there were some "open-doors" events at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Danse et de Musique de Paris, with a lot of public classes and also some small performances of the students. I'll tell a bit more about it in another post if I have enough time, but this thread is about a choreographer I've just learnt about.

I attended a public class given by the former POB principal Wilfride Piollet to the female ballet students of 4th year. It was a class of "repertory variations", and the class included several variations from "the Sleeping Beauty"... and also some variations from Henri Justamant, dating back from the 1880s, reconstructed after some notations.

Actually it was mentioned by Jean Guizerix (Piollet's husband) in his interview by Katharine Kanter:


Guizerix said that Maris-Françoise Christout, dance historian and critic, had found some hand-written notes dating back from 1888 by Justamant at the Paris Opera library.

When presenting her class, Wilfride Piollet said that Justamant had worked at the Paris Opera only for one year, and had left because he considered he was badly paid. She said that, for her, Justamant's variations were masterpieces, and insisted on the fact that some combinations of steps were very original (she said she had never seen in any other work she had danced), and often very difficult (though it could look easy to the audience). Unfortunately, the musical score for the variations which were show, which came from an opera "Le pied de mouton" (strange title, as it means "The sheep's foot"- but it's also the name of a mushroom...) were lost, one could only known which rhythm it needed but not the melody... Justamant also had choreographed the ballet for the opera "Faust" at the Paris Opera in 1869. Piollet said that when she studied at the POB school (she was born in 1943), the variations from "Faust" were used very often in all the exams for the students (and also some from "Coppélia"), but she didn't say whose version, as it is unlikely that Justamant's version was preserved (I seem to remember that Leo Staats did a version in the 1900s, but am not sure).

Back home I've tried to find a bit more about that mysterious Justamant, but it's not easy... He's not listed in Ivor Guest's "Le Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris", nor in all the ballet dictionaries I have (Koegler and four French ones)...

And a google search gives almost no results

one page about "Faust", and also one page on the site of the Folies-Bergères mentioning that during the Allemand-Marchand direction, about 50 ballets were created there, two thirds of which with arguments (I think that it that context it also means choreography) by Mariquita and Justamant. (By the way, Mariquita herself seems to have been quite an interesting character).

So I'm wondering if anybody else has ever heard about Mr Justamant, or can find a bit more information about him? That story sounds quite fascinating...

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Well, I'm replying to my own post, because I've found a bit more information in the online catalogue of the New York Public Library.

They have the following documents:

-"Catalogue de livres anciens et modernes, et des manuscrits originaux des ballets", note:

"Photocopy of sale catalog for the library of French choreographer Henri Justamant. "Ballets, scénarios et divertissements composés par M. H. Justamant": p. [15]-20. With this is included a photocopy of the Inventory of manuscript works by Justamant possibly acquired at this sale by the Bibliothèque de l'Opéra, Paris, and now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Département de l'Opéra (C. 891, B. 217, and 2366)"

So perhaps a lot of documents still are hidden in the Opera department of the French National Library?

-some "Choreographic instructions, in red and black ink, illustrated by stick-figure notations and floor diagrams" about the "Ballet des Erynnies" created in 1876 on some music by Massenet, about the "divertissement" or the drama "Les Fugitifs", created in 1868 on some music by Léon Fossey, and also a rather big stuff from the Lincold Kirstein collection about many ballets between 1866 and 1885

I wonder how many treasures still are hidden here and there in some libraries...

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Giselle ou Les Wilis: notation by Henri Justamant from the 1860s.

Author: Coralli, Jean & Jules Perrot

Published: 2008

A reproduction of a handwritten transcription of the ballet by the ballet master Henri Justamant, chief choreographer at the Paris Opera during the 1868 - 1869 season, documenting the choreography in figure and floor pattern notations and in accompanying texts (in French). This is the earliest known surviving record of the ballet's choreography, and thus of great historical importance.

Paperback [5624-PB] £ 80.00

Dance Books

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