Romanis and Romanovs; how gypsies danced their way into the Romantic Imagination
The occasion of Taglioni's 1838 season at St Petersburg was anticipated with quite as much fervour as that of Elssler's farewell from Moscow was lamented. For this hugely successful - and profitable - visit, Filippo Taglioni choreographed La Gitana, presenting his daughter to the Tsarist court in the guise of a gypsy; and Elssler chose to leave her adoring Muscovite public in the guise of another, Esmeralda. This paper, beyond the narrative of those occasions, will examine the iconography of the gypsy in ballets of the Romantic Period and locate the choreographic libretti of Taglioni, Mazilier, Perrot and others within the recent discourse of literary criticism that identified the Romani as destabilising of both identity and status. The gypsy girl dances out of her romanticised, eroticised and vilified culture and into the spotlight, her quality, nobility and birthright revealed and reclaimed.