Fanny Elssler and desire

fanny elssler

When Fanny Elssler (1810–84) left the Paris Opéra to tour the U.S. between 1840 and 1842, adoring critics there were faced—apparently for the first time—with the dilemma of writing approvingly about a woman making herself an object of desire.

Recurring descriptions of her being a divinity or an enchantress evince the process of assuaging guilt over this desire, and assumptions that male dancers were homosexuals enabled the suspension of jealousy over her dancing partners.

This according to “The personification of desire: Fanny Elssler and American audiences” by Maureen Needham Costonis (Dance chronicle XII/1 [1990] pp. 47–67).

Above, an image used for her U.S. tour of Elssler performing her signature La cachucha; below, a recreation performed by Carla Fracci.

Related article: The postmodern ballerina

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