Great Stars, Bitter Rivals: Pas de Quatre

During the summer of 1845, the great ballerinas Marie Taglioni, Fanny Cerito, Carlotta Grisi, and the young Danish dancer Lucile Grahn were all simultaneously engaged at her Majesty's Theatre, London. The enterprising impresario Benjamin Lumley conceived the daring idea of having them perform together in a single brief ballet, a Pas de Quatre of such brilliance that nothing remotely approaching it had ever been attempted before. Since the four stars were, of course, bitter rivals, it required diplomacy of the highest order to persuade them to agree to such an unprecedented proposition.

Agree they did, and French choreographer Jules Perrot set to work to create a series of dances that would display the most scintillating talents of each ballerina, without giving predominance to any one of the four. Perrot's choreography must have been masterful, for it achieved a harmonious unity while permitting each ballerina to enjoy a personal triumph in steps exactly suited to her individual style. At the first performance, on July 12, 1845, the entrance of each dancer elicited a veritable hailstorm of bouquets, and at the final curtain the stage was all but buried under an avalanche of flowers.

Pas de Quatre. Lithographs of the Romantic Ballet, 1845.
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, Cia Fornaroli Collection.

More Images of the Romantic Ballet

Collection Guide: 500 Years of Italian Dance: Treasures from the Cia Fornaroli Collection

About the Jerome Robbins Dance Division

Library Catalog Records: Lithograph / Sheet music