The Gardel Brothers

Maximilien Gardel (1741-1787) Son of a court ballet master to Stanislas, King of Poland, he studied with his father and became a prominent French dancer connected with the Academie Royale. With Auguste Vestris, he is credited with having invented the rond de jambe. I told you before that he was one of the dancers to discard the traditional mask. He removed it in 1772 to let the audience know he was dancing instead of his rival, Ausguste Vestris, (note that in a past Newsletter, Gaetano was also credited with discarding the mask) who was scheduled to dance the role. Maximilien was ballet master with Dauberval, at the Opera and composed many ballets. Marie Guimard (we will take up her life later) danced the leading role in LA CHERCHEUSE D'ESPRIT and LE PREMIER NAVIGATEUR. Maximilien was one of the pioneers of ballet pantomime.

Pierre Gardel (1758-1840) French dancer, teacher, choreographer and ballet master, he studied with his brother Maximilien. Pierre became a soloist with the Opera in 1780 and succeeded his brother in 1787 as chief maitre de ballet. One of his most fanous students was Carlo Blasis. He married the also famous dancer Marie Miller.

Marie Miller, danseuse at the Opera circa 1790. Noverre called her "Venus de Medicis de la danse." She was a remarkable mime as well as an excellent dancer. Her greatest role was in the ballet PSYCHE, choreographed by her husband. She retired in 1823.

Louis Antoine Duport, (1781-1853) French dancer and ballet master, was one of the most famous dancers of his time. He enjoyed phenomenal success at the Paris Opera. He was a serious rival of Auguste Vestris, who was 20 years his senior. He made many demands and even Napoleon tried to curb his staggering demands. He had to leave Paris in female disguise with a former mistress of Napoleon, fleeing to Vienna. He later went to St Petersburg, where he dazzled the audiences in ballets of Didelot. After a sensational romance with the Russian ballerina Marie Danilova, he went back to Paris with his mistress and withdrew from public life.

(First published September 1991)

Next: Yekaterina Geltzer (1876-1962)