Spotlight Saturday: Lucile Grahn

Today's Spotlight Saturday focuses on Danish Romantic ballerina Lucile Grahn.

Lucile Alexia Grahn-Young studied ballet from a young age at the Royal Danish Theatre School in Copenhagen. Her teacher was famous ballet master and choreographer August Bournonville, responsible for ballets such as La Sylphide and Napoli.

In 'la Cachacha', popularised by Fanny Elssler

Her official debut came in 1834 at the Royal Danish Theatre, and she soon succeeded to leading roles, performing Astrid in Bournonville's Valdemar in 1835. But the relationship between student and teacher began to sour when Grahn expressed a desire to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet. Having received royal permission, she left in 1836 and never returned to Denmark.

While appearing with the Paris Opera Ballet, Grahn overstayed the terms of her formal leave, and was dropped from the Royal Danish Ballet. As she was experiencing great success in Paris, this did not bother her; from 1839 to 1845, she also danced in several other cities, including London, Milan, and St. Petersburg.

Possibly a rare photograph of Grahn in 'Giselle'

In 1845, confirming her status as a leading prima ballerina of the day, Grahn was invited to London by Jules Perrot, to perform in his work Pas de Quatre. Her fellow stars were leading ballerinas Fanny Cerrito, Carlotta Grisi, and Marie Taglioni. Perrot's work was a great success, and the ballet was performed in Her Majesty's Theatre in London, in front of Queen Victoria herself.

From left: Carlotta Grisi, Marie Taglioni, Lucile Grahn, and Fanny Cerrito in Perrot's 'Pas de Quatre', London, 1845

After 1846, Grahn began touring Europe not only to dance, but also to stage ballets. She oversaw a revival of Perrot's Catarina, ou la fille du bandit - Catarina, or the Daughter of the Bandit - (which she herself performed in London), and also her own play Bacchus et Ariadne. In 1848, she moved to Hamburg in Germany, and eventually made a home in Munich.

In the Perrot/Pugni 'Catarina' in London, 1846

She retired in 1856, and married Friedrich Young. From 1858 to 1861, she was ballet mistress in Leipzig, and from 1869 to 1875 ballet mistress at the Court Opera in Munich. She died in 1907, leaving her large estate to the city of Munich.

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Jules Perrot.

- Selene

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