Fanny Cerrito


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(b Naples, 11 May 1817; d Paris, 6 May 1909)

Italian dancer. One of the most famous ballerinas of the Romantic era. She studied with Perrot, Blasis, and Saint-Léon, making her debut at the Teatro Regio in Naples in 1832. During the next twenty years she became a star throughout Europe, appearing in all the major capitals. In Vienna in 1841 she studied and performed with Arthur Saint-Léon, whom she married. A voluptuous, even erotic dancer, she was noted for her strength and fiery personality on stage. She created leading roles in Alma ou La Fille de feu (London, 1842), Ondine (London, 1843), La Vivandière (1844), and Lalla Rookh (London, 1846) and took part in the first productions of the Pas de quatre (London, 1845) and the Le Jugement de Pâris (London, 1846). Her marriage to Saint-Léon (who was also her dancing partner) broke up in 1851 when she became the mistress of the Marquis de Bedmar. From 1847 to 1854 she was at the Paris Opera, where she created title roles in Mazilier's Orfa (1852) and her own ballet Gemma (1854). In 1855 she appeared at Covent Garden and in 1856–7 at the Lyceum Theatre. In 1856 she took part in the celebrations in Moscow for Alexander II's coronation. While performing there she was struck by a piece of falling scenery, a fact which could have been instrumental in her decision to retire from the stage the following year. Ironically, for someone who had enjoyed such celebrity, her death in 1909 went unreported in the Paris press.

Subjects: Dance.

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