Mary Ann Lee

(c. 1823)

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(b Philadelphia, Jul. 1824 (some sources say 1823); d Philadelphia, 25 Jan. 1899)

US dancer and teacher, who was also the first US ballerina to gain local renown. She studied with Paul Hazard in Philadelphia and made her debut as a child actress c.1832. In 1837 she first appeared as a professional dancer in Philadelphia dancing in The Maid of Kashmir (an English version of La Bayadère), then became leading dancer at the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia (1838–9). She made her New York debut in 1839, appearing in La Bayadère and The Sisters, and also danced some of Elssler's famous pieces which she learned from her partner James Sylvain, such as La Cachucha. In Boston in 1842 she danced the title role of Taglioni's La Sylphide in her own staging and in 1844 she went to study at Paris Opera with Coralli. On her return to the US she staged several major European ballets, including Giselle (Boston, 1946). She herself danced the title role, the first American to do so. She retired early in 1847, owing to illness, though she returned for occasional performances, and opened a school in Philadelphia in 1860.

Subjects: Dance.

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