Fanny Elssler: The Pagan Ballerina

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Fanny Elssler was one of the most brilliant stars of the Romantic ballet. The accepted rival of Taglioni, she represented the passionate expression of the dance. Theophile Gautier distinguished the two ballerinas by describing Elssler as a pagan dancer and Taglioni as a Christian dancer. There was no doubt that it was Elssler he preferred. Her style found its true expression in her famous Spanish character dance: the Cachucha, but even more, it was her dramatic genius that conquered the audiences before whom she appeared. She approached, more closely than any other ballerina of her time, the ideal of the complete dancer-actress, and her example lives on today in the tradition which modern ballerinas follow in the role of Giselle. In Ivor Guest's biography her performances come vividly to life through eye-witness accounts, and the story of her life is told with a wealth of detail, much of it hitherto unpublished. Among the highlights are Elssler's adventurous tour of the United States (she was the first great ballerina to cross the Atlantic), her fantastic triumphs in Russia, her sentimental friendship with the great publicist, Gentz, and the persistent legend of her liaison with the son of Napoleon. Based on wide research, this is a definitive study of one of the greatest figures in the history of ballet.