Thursday, April 24, 2008

Portraits: Dancers

André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri
Emma Livry

Carte de visite
kindly provided by Paul Frecker

A new exhibition Portraits: Dancers from the 1860s to the present day has been added to Luminous-Lint. It begins with a carte de visite by André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri of Emma Livry taken between 1859-1861. Paul Frecker kindly provided the biography of this dancer:

Born in Paris on 14 September 1842, Emma Livry made her début on 20 September 1858 in La Sylphide. She quickly became one of the brightest rising stars of the Paris Opéra and the darling of Paris audiences. A glorious career seemed certain, particularly after she caught the eye of Marie Taglioni, who had originated the role. Taglioni worked with her daily, and created her only ballet for her, Le Papillion, with music by Offenbach.

At that time, stages were lighted by gas jets, and since accidents were frequent, the long tutus worn by dancers were treated to make them flame resistant. However, the process made the muslin turn yellow and stiff, and like many other dancers, Livry refused to wear costumes that had been treated.

During a rehearsal of The Dumb Girl of Portici, Emma's skirt caught fire. Two male dancers tried to extinguish the flames, but Emma suffered severe burns. She died of complications eight months later. She was twenty-one years old.

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