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Rethinking the Sylph

New Perspectives on the Romantic Ballet

Lynn Garafola

Publication Year: 1997

Rethinking the Sylph gathers essays by a premier group of international scholars to illustrate the importance of the romantic ballet within the broad context of western theatrical dancing. The wide variety of perspectives -- from social history to feminism, from psychoanalysis to musicology -- serves to illuminate the modernity of the Romantic ballet in terms of vocabulary, representation of gender, and iconography. The collection highlights previously unexplored aspects of the Romantic ballet, including its internationalism; its reflection of modern ideas of nationalism through the use and creation of national dance forms; its construction of an exotic-erotic hierarchy, and proto-orientalist "other"; its transformation of social relations from clan to class; and the repercussions of its feminization as an art form. This generously illustrated book offers a wealth of rare archival material, including prints, costume designs, music, and period reviews, some translated into English for the first time.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi

I am deeply grateful to the authors whose essays follow. Without their patience, generosity, and intellectual fellowship, this volume would never have materialized. I am also grateful to the Studies in Dance History editorial board for its enthusiastic support of the project, Suzanna Tamminen of Wesleyan University Press for welcoming it to one of this country's...

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pp. 1-10

No era has done more to define the image and essence of ballet than the Romantic decades of the 1830s and 1840s. Indeed, it was in these years, which coincided with the liberal July Monarchy in France and a rising tide of nationalism elsewhere, that ballet as we know it first came into existence. Although individual elements, from the theme of the supernatural...

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National Dance in the Romantic Ballet

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pp. 11-68

Historians have long acknowledged the surging interest in folk culture that exerted a potent effect upon artists and scholars in the nineteenth century as the old influences of classicism and Francophilia finally began to be eclipsed. In such disparate works as Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt, Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy, Smetana's The Bartered Bride, and Victor Hugo's...

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Feminism or Fetishism?: La Révolte des femmes and Women's Liberation in France in the 1830s

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pp. 69-90

La Révolte des femmes (The Revolt of the Women) or La Révolte au serail (The Revolt of the Harem), as it is better known today, has been called one of the few feminist ballets of the nineteenth century.1 Choreographed by Filippo Taglioni as a vehicle for his daughter Marie, the work premiered at the Paris Opéra in 1833, only a year after the creation of La Sylphide...

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Marriage and the Inhuman: La Sylphide's Narratives of Domesticity and Community

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pp. 91-105

La Sylphide, a ballet originally choreographed by Filippo Taglioni to music by Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer and given its premiere at the Paris Opera on 12 March 1832, is generally considered to be the first major Romantic ballet. Its themes of the supernatural, exotic folklore, and the quest for the ideal were skillfully realized in the union of scenic...

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Redeeming Giselle: Making a Case for the Ballet We Love to Hate

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pp. 107-120

Of late, Giselle has become subject to unofficial censoring. This is due to the findings of certain ideologically based critiques that emphasize how the ballet represents the oppression and victimization of women and the working class. According to this criticism, victimization is present in the story line, is generally implicit in ballet aesthetics, and characterizes the...

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Women of Faint Heart and Steel Toes

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pp. 121-130

Before the twentieth century changes in ballet costume often mirrored changes in fashion. This was especially true after the French Revolution, when a passion for the styles of ancient Greece and Rome-inspired in part by the paintings of Jacques-Louis David-swept the streets and ballrooms of Europe. The new fashion called for a high waist and long columnar line; breasts were prominent, and legs, sometimes...

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Blasis, the Italian Ballo, and the Male Sylph

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pp. 131-141

The aversion to the danseur, so emphatically stated in the writings of French Romantic critics such as Theophile Gautier, has often prompted the belief that "the male ballet dancer became an object of distaste in London, Paris and many other European cities during the first half of the nineteenth century."1 Such an assumption, however, stems from a generalization...

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Ballet Dancers at Wanaw's Wielki Theater

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pp. 143-163

In nineteenth-century Poland the ballet school attached to Warsaw's Wielki or Grand Theater was the only educational institution that did not charge tuition. This was a decisive factor in determining the social background of the pupils, who came, almost without exception, from poor families and were the children of small craftsmen, day laborers, and the...

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The Arrival of the Great Wonder of Ballet, or Ballet in Rome from 1845 to 1855

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pp. 165-180

The period from 1845 to 1855 was rich in significant events both for the city of Rome and for the future kingdom of Italy. These events led to a process of radical renewal in Italian politics and society. In these same years the most celebrated Romantic dancers appeared on the stages of Rome-from Fanny Cerrito to Fanny Elssler, Lucile Grahn to Marie Taglioni and Carlotta Grisi, soon followed by the stars of La Scala...

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Salvatove Taglioni, King of Naples

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pp. 181-196

"The finest living ballet composer in Italy," opined August Bournonville in the 1840s about Salvatore Taglioni.1 However forgotten he may be today, Taglioni was the most eminent Italian choreographer of the Romantic period. In part, this was because of the exceptional longevity of his career, which began in 1806, when he made his debut as a sixteen- year-old dancer...

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Jules Janin: Romantic Critic

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pp. 197-241

Jules Janin (1804-1874) was a well-known literary figure during the July Monarchy and Second Empire, writing spirited, amusing, and sometimes perceptive literary and theatrical reviews for Le Journal des Débats. Known as the prince of critics, he was influential enough to merit a place in Danish ballet master August Bournonville's autobiography, My Theatre...


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pp. 243-261


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pp. 263-273


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pp. 275-276


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pp. 277-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780819572011
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819563255

Page Count: 301
Publication Year: 1997