I have not yet finished with the Montmartre Cemetery. Now, it’s time for some dancers.
Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950), born at Kiev, but rather Polish, son of dancers, was a star dancer in the beginning of the 19th century. Starting his career at the famous Mariinsky (Kirov) Theatre in Saint Petersburg, he’s specially linked to Sergei Diaghilev and the famous “Ballets Russes”, performing the years before and after WWI and which got their “home” in Paris after the Russian 1917 revolution. He danced with and choregraphed Anna Pavlova, Isadora Duncan (represented on the façade of the Théatre Champs-Elysées, the major “home” of the “Ballets Russes” performances) … Ballets like “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” (music by Debusyy) and “Sacre du Printemps” (music by Stravinski) are other references. Nijinski had mental problems as from 1920 and spent his last 30 years in an asylum in Switzerland.
There is another grave which has led to some misunderstandings. You can read: “Marie Taglioni – sa mere bien aimée” (M.T., her beloved mother). In fact, this is the tomb of Marie’s mother, Sophie Karsten, a Swedish dancer. But the star is Marie, who is buried at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. The misunderstanding has led to the devotion and the collection of ballet or pointe shoes offered by fans. Marie (1804-84) was actually the first artist who introduced dancing « en pointe ». Johann Strauss II composed a “Maria Taglioni Polka”.
« La Goulue », Louise Weber (1866-1929) got her nickname (the glutton) from her habit of emptying the glasses of the cabaret guests. She is considered to have created the Cancan dance and her name if of course linked to Moulin Rouge (see previous posts) and Toulouse-Lautrec. The end of her career was less glorious; she sold peanuts, cigarettes and matches on the street corner, near Moulin Rouge. (The Moulin Rouge did not quite look the same when “La Goulue” starred.)
Another name and tomb is more linked to another great Paris cabaret, “Lido”: “Miss Bluebell”, Margaret Kelly-Leibovici (1910-2004). After an own dancing career, she created in 1932 the “Bluebell Girls”, which has become a concept still alive, not only in Paris. Her biography is full of good acts.
At last, for this post, let’s talk about Ludmilla Tchérina (1924-2004). She was the daughter of a Russian prince and general. In 1942, at 18, she became the youngest prima ballerina ever and danced with the Paris Opera, the Bolshoi and the Kirov Theatres. She also appeared in films with co-stars like Mel Ferrer, Michael Redgrave… She was also an author, but especially during her later years painted and sculpted. The statue we can see on her grave is a copy of “Europe à Coeur”, chosen in 1991 to symbolize the Union of Europe and placed in front of the European Parliament building.
Here is where you can find the tombs.