Emma Livry
POSTED ON04.02.2021
Emma Livry, the great tragedy of the last romantic ballerina.

July 26th of 1863, a fatidic day in ballet history. Emma Livry, the last great star of the romantic ballet dies of an infection caused by the wounds inflicted during the terrible fire that occurred on the 15th of November of 1862.

While she was rehearsing the role of the mime in the opera La muette de Portici her tutu was set on fire with the light of the candles, the spotlights of the time, and the flames caused her injuries all over her body. After months of suffering, the dancer died at the young age of 20 years old.

At this time of history, there already existed fireproof materials for the costumes, so this incident could have been avoided, but Livry herself with many other ballerinas were against using them because they discolored the costumes and made them stiff. Of course, after this terrible episode it became mandatory that the tutu’s material was fireproof.

Emma Livry’s death precipitated the end of the Romantic ballet. There were no great divas left to shine on Paris’ theatres, nor great choreographers to create new ballets.

There were not even male dancers: do not forget in this time male roles were performed by women dressed as men. In this way, Paris gave the international ballet focus to Saint Petersburg, where Marius Petipa would develop his great works in the Imperial Ballets.

To conclude, I do not think there are better words to devote to the young Livry than the ones of her own teacher, the great Maria Taglioni herself, who witnessed the tragic accident, and said about Emma: “It is true that I never have seen myself dancing, but I would like to think I did it like her”.

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