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Louis Merante and Emma Livry in La Sylphide

Louis Merante and Emma Livry in La Sylphide

Burned Butterfly Emma Livry

Le Papillon, in which a kidnapped princess is transformed into a butterfly, is sillier than your average?ballet. It?s not even scientifically accurate ? the climax involves a butterfly?s wings burning after it flies into a torch, even though, unlike moths, butterflies aren?t attracted to bright lights. In fact, the most significant thing about the production was that its star, Emma Livry, became famous for playing the flame-injured butterfly. And for dying when she drew too close to an open flame.

The young ballerina wasn?t the only one; scores of?dancers?are believed to have died after gas lighting became popular in 19th-century theaters. A gas light, a flimsy tutu and ??bam!?Ballerinas in Philadelphia, London and?Paris?perished in what was referred to as a holocaust. But Livry stands out, both as a defiant voice against change in the ballet world and as a catalyst for it.

Ballet loves a tragic ingenue:?Odette, Giselle, the girl in the red shoes?but the storied lives of its early dancers upstaged the roles they played.

It?s hard not to romanticize the 19th century Paris Opera?Degas sketching the feathery dancers from his box above the flickering footlights?but offstage, the lives of his subjects were less idyllic. In fact, the biographies of the Romantic Era ballerina make the Paris Opera sound like a soap.

Perhaps the saddest is that of Emma Livry. The last star of the romantic ballet, she is most remembered for her?deadly?costume choice. But hers is not the story of a skirt. It is the age-old tale of societal class, and the art of survival for those in the lower levels.

When you hear someone called a “wet blanket” you never think, “Where that expression comes from?” but it comes from a incident in ballet history. Young people of today never think how the stage was illuminated before electricity. At first candles were placed inside a reflector. Later gas jets were used for foot-light and also for special effects.

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No it is not, porn doesn’t bludge from the tax payer

A boss of English National Ballet is wanting a “man-ban” on recruiting choreographers and has ?claimed the current male-dominated perspective shapes the way audiences view things “like in porn”.

Ballet of course is nothing lik porn, for a start porn doesn’t bludge off the taxpayer.

Ballet and pornography may not be the most obvious of allies, but it appears they may have more in common than first thought.

For the new artistic director of the English National Ballet has compared the two genres as she speaks of the high proportion of male choreographers in dance, saying: ?Like in porn, it shapes the way you look at things?. ? Read more »