Spotlight Saturday: Jules Perrot

Despite a slight delay, this week's Spotlight Saturday focuses on ballet master and choreographer Jules Perrot.

Jules-Joseph Perrot was born 18 August 1810 in Lyons, France. He began his dance career by imitating popular comic dancer Charles Mazurier. For this, he was engaged at the Gaite Theatre in Paris in 1823. He then moved to the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre, where he studied under Auguste Vestris. He successfully debuted at the Paris Opera in 1830, and within a year had been promoted to principal dancer, partnering Marie Taglioni in Flore et Zephir.

With Grisi in 'The Original Polka', 1844

Perrot left the Opera when management refused to pay him wages on par with those received by the leading ballerinas. He was engaged in London in 1835, before moving to Naples in 1836, where he met Carlotta Grisi. Acting as her teacher, partner, and suitor, he accompanied her to London in 1836, and to Vienna, where he staged his first importance ballet, Der Kobold, in 1838. He had hoped to marry Grisi, but though she bore him a daughter, she was reluctant to marry.

With Grisi in 'The Opera Polka', c. 1840s

In 1841, Grisi was engaged by the Paris Opera, and though Perrot was not officially engaged, he accompanied her. He devised much of the action scenes for the ballet Giselle, but was not credited for them; full credit instead went to Jean Coralli. It was then that Perrot broke with Grisi, who stayed at the Paris Opera whilst he was engaged by London's opera house, Her Majesty's Theatre. He started in 1842 as an assistant to the aged ballet master Andre Deshayes, but from 1843 was entirely in charge.

With Grisi in 'La Polka'

Working with the most influential ballerinas of the period, he produced some 23 ballets. For Fanny Elssler, he created Le Delire d'un peintre (1843); for Fanny Cerrito, Ondine (1843) and Lalla Rookh (1846); for Grisi, La Esmeralda (1844); and for Lucile Grahn, Eoline (1845) and Catarina (1846). He also staged Pas de Quatre (1845), with Cerrito, Grisi, Grahn, and Taglioni, to great success. This was followed by several divertissements of the same type, including Le Judgement de Paris (1846), Les Elements (1847), and Les Quatre Saisons (1848).

With Grisi in 'La Esmeralda' (1844)

In 1848, he produced a full-length work, Faust, for Fanny Elssler at La Scala in Milan. The work was a great success, and he himself appeared in it as Mephistopheles. He then left for Russia, after producing La Filleule des fees for Grisi at the Paris Opera (1849). In Russia he was engaged as principal ballet master of the Imperial Theatre of St. Petersburg until 1860. Whilst there, he produced expanded versions of La Esmeralda and Catarina, as well as The Naiad and the Fisherman (1851), The War of the Women (1852), and Gazelda (1853), all for Grisi, as well as Armida (1855) for Cerrito.

With Fanny Elssler in 'Le Delire d'un peintre' (1843)

After a disappointing 1864 season in Milan, Perrot retired. He taught classes in his later years at the Paris Opera, and he may be seen in Degas' painting The Dance Class of 1874. Perrot died on his birthday, 18 August 1892, at Parame, aged 82.

'The Dance Class', by Edgar Degas (1874) - Perrot in the middle

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Svetlana Zakharova.

- Selene

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