Pas de Quatre

Pas de Quatre

I bring this ballet to your attention because of the ballerinas discussed elsewhere at this site. Today's version of this ballet was choreographed by Anton Dolin.

Pas de Quatre was originally choreographed, at the suggestion of Benjamin Lunley, by Jules Perrot in 1845, with music by Cesare Pugni, at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. In the nineteenth century, ballerinas were worshiped, even idolized. Their salaries were the equivalent of what is paid to star athletes today. They developed enormous egos and had feuds with their rivals. It was a real feat for Benjamin Lumley to get Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito, and Lucile Grahn to dance together, and Perrot to choreograph. Of the great dancers of that time only Fanny Elssler didn't participate. The first performance of Pas de Quatre sent critics into a frenzy.

Perrot had the dificult task of making each ballerina look her best: if she could turn, he had her turn, if she jumped, he had her jump.

There was also the problem of the order in which they were to appear the last solo was the best spot. The manager, Benjamin Lumley, solved the problem by suggesting that they dance according to age--the youngest first and the oldest last. Suddenly everyone wanted to be first, but it was decided that Grahn would lead, followed by Grisi, then Cerrito and, finally, Taglioni. Only four performances were given with the original cast. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were in the audience at the third performance.

In 1941 Anton Dolin rechoreographed the ballet for Ballet Theatre and in 1949 for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. I saw this ballet with Alicia Markova in the role of Taglioni, Mia Slavenska as Grisi, Alexandra Danilova as Cerrito, Nathalie Krassovska (and later Gertrude Tyven) as Grahn. Many, many dancers have danced this ballet since.

(First published August 1993)

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