Marie Taglioni: The First Ballerina En Pointe

Marie Taglioni, the Comtesse de Voisins, lived from 1804-1884. She was the first ballerina to truly dance en pointe. She was Swedish born and spent the majority of her life in the Austrian Empire and France, which were the origins of ballet (especially regarding ballet’s early Italian origins). Her father, Italian Filipo Taglioni, was a choreographer and her mother was a Swedish ballet dancer, Sophie Karsten. Her brother was also a dancer and choreographer. This family was dedicated to an incredible art form a very long time ago. Her father was the ballet master of the court opera in Vienna, where she began her dancing career. She spent four hours each day dancing ballet – two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.

When her father created the ballet, La Sylphide (1832), it was the first ballet to be danced en pointe and had integrated a range of arm motions, as well. She danced for numerous ballet companies (the early origins), including Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and the Paris Opera Ballet. Her personal life beyond her dancing career is fascinating. In 1835, she married Comte Auguste Gilbert de Voisins, but they separated in 1836. She later fell in love with a loyal fan who defended her honor in a duel. She gave birth the following year to a child with her fan, Eugene Desmares. The following year, he died in a hunting accident. By 1842, Taglioni gave birth to a second child. The father is unknown, though the birth certificate states her first husband as the father (out of formality). She retired from dancing in 1847 and she settled in Venice, Italy at the Palazzo Santa Sofia on the Grand Canal. She also spent time teaching dance in England – she resided in London from 1875-1876. In 1884, Taglioni passed away in Marseille the day before her 80th birthday. Local dancers left pointe shoes in her honor on Montmartre (where she is supposedly buried as it is speculated that may not be her burial site).

Marie played an integral role in the development of ballet. What would ballet be without pointe shoes?

The Palazzo Santa Sofia, the home of Marie Taglioni in Venice.

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