Fanny Elssler

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Elssler, Fanny


(real first name, Franziska). Born June 23, 1810, in Vienna; died there Nov. 27, 1884. Austrian ballerina; one of the most outstanding dancers of the romantic ballet.

Elssler studied under J. Aumer and perfected her technique in Italy. She first appeared on the stage in 1822, and her career eventually took her to Vienna and Berlin (1827-32), London (1833), Paris (1834-40), the United States (1840-41), and Moscow and St. Petersburg (1848-50).

Elssler’s roles included Florinda in Le Diable boiteux and Lauretta in La Tarentule, both to music by Gide. She won worldwide fame for her performance of the interpolated dance “La Cachucha” in Le Diable boiteux. She also excelled as Lise in Hérold’s La Fille mal gardée and in the title role in Pugni’s La Esmeralda.


Krasovskaia, V. Russkii baletnyi teatr et voszniknoveniia do ser. XIX veka. Leningrad-Moscow, 1958.
Beaumont, C. W. Fanny Elssler. London, 1931.
Guest, I. Fanny Elssler. London, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Synopsis: Fanny Elssler was one of the most brilliant stars of the Romantic ballet.
In Paquita, she evokes Fanny Elssler, and yet she has also been compared to Suzanne Farrell.
We perfectly recollect admiring the emotion of several ancient aristocrats in the stalls on the recent appearance of the legs of Fanny Elssler. We thought that we observed an aged and respectable virtuoso shedding tears; another fainted ...; one appeared to go mad, and bit his neighbor's pit-tail [sic] in half in sheer ecstasy.
But GWS' first major classical teacher was the distinguished English dancer James Sylvain (real name Sullivan--the Sylvain was adopted during his stint with the Paris Opera Ballet, 1831-33), who toured America as Fanny Elssler's partner and ballet master of her company.
Today's hyper-extended giraffes can scarcely manage the "filigree steps" that were the hallmark of such terre-a-terre dancers as Fanny Elssler.
By the mid-nineteenth century there were sufficient dancers to serve in the corps for such visiting stars as Fanny Elssler. They were trained by the likes of Philadelphia's Charles Durang, whose father John is regarded as the first important American professional dancer.
The greatest stars of the Romantic ballet--Marie Taglioni, Fanny Elssler, Carlotta Grisi--vied to dance at the Opera, and in its ateliers the tutu, that universal ballet uniform, was invented.
To cover his expenses and passage home he made his last movie appearance in Fanny Elssler, the 1937 UFA film biography of the Viennese Romantic ballerina with Lilian Harvey.
In 1838, with the appointment of the great pedagogue and textbook methodologist Carlo Blasis, the school produced Carlotta Grisi and Fanny Cerrito, ballerinas who would soon contend for romantic stardom with Marie Taglioni and Fanny Elssler. The virtuoso strength of Italian dancers such as Virginia Zucchi, Pierina Legnani, and Carlotta Brianza were recognized in Russia, and their technical virtuosity was incorporated into what is now the Vaganova method.
school of which Fanny Elssler, Marie Taglioni, and Carlotta Grisi were representative.