Pas de Quatre

Music by: Cesare Pugni
Choreography after: Staged by Trutti Gasparinetti after Perrot
Costumes by: Mike Gonzales

It was the Idea of Mr. Benjamin Lumley, manager of her Majesty’s Theatre in London, to stage a grand divertissement bringing together the four greatest ballerinas of the Romantic Age. Through the most delicate diplomacy, he managed to call the celebrated ladies to London, not however without several “artistic misunderstandings.” One of these as the choice of who was to receive the favored last variation, each lady certain of her own supremacy.

Tactfully, Mr. Lumley offered it to the oldest among them – it is said Mademoiselle Taglioni stood quite still while the younger girls demurely stepped back.

The Gala Divertissement finally took place on June 26, 1845. The choreography was fashioned by Jules Perrot – an English wag likened his task to teaching lions and tigers to waltz in a cage – who sought to exploit the signature qualities of each danseuse; Grahn’s vivaciousness, Grisi’s lyrical expressiveness, Cerrito’s coquetry, and Taglioni’s ethereal mystery.

The original Pas de Quatre was danced only four times (Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attended the third performance) but served as a model of the ritualistic celebrations of academic dance we now call “abstract ballet.” It survives today as one of the more charming (and silly) evocations of Romantic Ballet in the 1840s.

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