Marie Camargo


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(orig. Marie-Anne de Cupis de Camargo; baptized in Brussels, 15 Apr. 1710; d Paris, 28 Apr. 1770)

French dancer of Spanish and Italian descent. One of the most celebrated and influential ballerinas in history. Born the daughter of Ferdinand Joseph de Cupis, the aristocratic Italian who was dancing master in Brussels, she made her debut in Brussels but continued her studies with Prévost and Blondy in Paris to become a member of the Paris Opera in 1726. Here she was the first ballerina to exhibit a virtuosity that rivalled male dancers and, on one occasion, famously executed an entirely improvised solo to cover for a male colleague's missed entrée. For eight years she enjoyed a fierce rivalry with the more graceful and poetic Sallé which ended when Camargo retired in 1734 to the country chateau of her lover, Louis de Bourbon, Comte de Clermont. In 1740 she returned to the stage to dance in 78 ballets, and reaffirm her position as queen of the Paris Opera. When she retired in 1751 she was granted the largest pension ever given to a dancer. She was possessed of a brilliant batterie and changed public perceptions about the way women should dance. Not only did she perform steps hitherto considered the exclusive province of the male—like cabrioles and entrechats—she also shortened the traditional skirt of the ballerina to just above the ankle to facilitate her movements, and ensure that the public could see her brilliant footwork. She was one of the stars of 18th-century ballet, who additionally influenced the fashions of the day, and inspired several culinary creations including Filet de Bœuf Camargo, Soufflé Camargo, and Bombe Camargo. Petipa choreographed Camargo, a ballet in her honour, in St Petersburg (1872). Enrico de Leva and Charles Lecocq wrote operas about her. In 1930 the Camargo Society was founded in London.

Subjects: Dance.

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