"Pas de Quatre" was choreographed by Jules Perrot in 1845 with music by Cesare Pugni at Her Majesty's Theater in London. In the 19th century, ballerinas were worshiped and idolized, their salaries the equivalent of what star athletes are paid today. They were beautiful, had enormous egos, and had feuds with their rivals. This particular ballet was composed for the four greatest ballerinas of all time...Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito, and Lucille Grahn. The first performance was sensational sending critics into a frenzy. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were in the audience.
The order of appearance was considered, contemplated, debated, and finally assigned by age, from youngest to oldest with each solo spot choreographed to enhance the dancers' strengths. Taglioni danced last, took the top position in the classical opening and ending pose, and was humbly portrayed by me at the tender age of 15 in the following Toledo Blade photos.
Dancing the lead in "Pas de Quatre"
was a dynamic role and will always be a memorable highlight of my dance career. I have somehow hung on to the 4 pink tulle, classically crafted costumes, and have moved them, as many times as I have moved, to new locations over my lifetime. I love to look at them and remember the hundreds of hours I spent perfecting the delicate yet incredibly strong movements that Taglioni was famous for. Somewhat of a rebel, as I have been known to be as well, she was the first ballerina ever to dance entirely en pointe in Les Sylphide (1832), designed as a showcase for her talent, for the full length of the ballet.
It is interesting to note that at Maria's retirement from professional ballet at the age of 45 (uh, wow!), a pair of her pointe shoes was sold for a notable sum, reportedly to be cooked and served as a sauce for a group of balletomanes! She continued her involvement with dance for many years after that, however, teaching, guiding and choreographing. She was 80 years old when she died, and will always be remembered as the famous Italian ballerina of the Romantic ballet era. I feel privileged to have danced in her famous footsteps.
The wonderfully full and very classically styled costumes are worn by me, Debora Draheim Kahn as Maria Taglioni (center), and Cassandra Macino of The Cassandra School of
Ballet as Grisi (left), my sister Cynthia Draheim Dickey as Lucille Grahn (right back), and Barbara Tansey as Fanny Cerito (right front). We danced our hearts out as live music played by The Toledo Orchestra directed by Serge Fournier, produced by Gail Grant Theatre and photographed by The Toledo Blade in 1968. We were... awesome!
The Smucci Ballerina Bed is a tribute to the incredible strength and perseverance required to make it as a great ballerina, and simultaneously honors the beauty of fragility, grace and vulnerability as equal requirements. I designed this bed to honor the strength within us to protect the pets we love, and to outwardly express this sentiment as we tuck our beloved pets into this beautiful bed each night.
Tonight, I enlisted the help of my talented son, Jamie, to photograph the Smucci Ballerina Bed with P-Nut, our rescued papillion, serving as the model for the shoot. For the backdrop, I tucked the original Pas de Quatre costumes behind the bed along with some of my pointe shoes, and the results are amazing! I have been inspired to rework the presentation of the tulle tutu beneath the Smucci Ballerina Bed into a freer form, much like the backdrop of the photo. I will also offer this pet bed without the tulle skirt, for those who are just not ballerina connoisseurs, highlighting the beauty of the rose crown molding, custom colors and hand stenciled silver leaf.
Admittedly, some of our greatest creations are simple, purposeful, and a result of our first impulse. But then again, refinement and grace have a place...sometimes the best is saved for last.