Jan 12 2011
Marie Sallé lived only 49 years but she became one of those brilliant dancers and choreographers who started and continued ballet reforms in the 18th century. Born in humble surroundings in 1707, she began dancing at an early age and at 11 debuted at the comical opera on a simple fair. Marie toured many fairs for several years before she took the stage of Parisian Opéra in 1721. Françoise Prévost, sponsored her debut.
Her success on stage gave her a chance to study in the Académie Royale de Danse, the first dance institution established in the Western world. Marie and her famous future rival Marie Camargo were taught ballet by their famous ballet predecessor, famous ballerina and choreographer Françoise Prévost who also helped to establish the classical ballet.
At that time neither Sallé nor Camargo could not advance rapidly through the ranks as Françoise Provost was still a premiere danseuse in the Paris Opera holding back both ambitious ballerinas. This is why Marie’s initial performances took place in London at at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre where she spent two years honing and polishing her dancing skills.
Ballet Experiments and Scandals
Upon her return to Paris, Marie joined corps de ballet in Opera and was quickly recognized for her talents. Her dancing career took on as well as well as famous rivalry with Marie Camargo. In 1734 caused shock in Parisian audience as she dared during the dances to raise her her fashionably oppressive, skirts above her ankle for more freedom of movement. To outdo Camargo Marie Sallé caused even bigger scandal. She appeared in her own ballet production of Pygmalion with her hair down, wearing only a tunic.
We call Marie Sallé a reformer of the ballet dance for her expressive dramatic performances unusual at that time. Before ballet reforms of Jean-Georges Noverre in the late 18th century she already started choreographic experiments integrating music, costumes, and dance styles of her ballets with their themes. Marie had a firm belief that ballet dances should be natural and expressive, thus, dropping burdensome ornaments and heavy dresses out and replacing them with light muslin ones in her productions.
In 1740 Marie retired from the stage but many of her ballet experiments were adopted by her successors including Noverre and became the part of the classical ballet. She died in 1756.
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