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Spotlight Saturday: Genevieve Gosselin

This week's Spotlight Saturday focuses on French ballerina Genevieve Gosselin.

Genevieve-Adelaide Gosselin was born in 1791. Her father was a ballet master, and her three younger sisters also became ballerinas. Constance Gosselin married the danseur Auguste-Anatole Petit; Louise Gosselin achieved success as a prima ballerina in both London and Paris; and Henriette Gosselin danced with the Paris Opera Ballet for seven years.

Genevieve, it could be said, had a certain amount of natural talent. She studied under Jean-Francois Coulon, one of Europe's most renowned teachers. Coulon was the teacher of the 'classe de perfectionnement' at the Paris Opera School in 1807. He was also instrumental in the development of pointe shoes in 1810.

Gosselin debuted at the Paris Opera in 1806 at only 15. She had exceptional technique and was the first dancer to begin developing the art of pointework, from around 1813 onwards. In 1815 she was cast as Flora in Charles Didelot's celebrated ballet Flore and Zephire. The ballet was one of the first Romantic ballets of the period, presented by the Russian Imperial Ballet. What made Didelot's ballet so remarkable was his invention of a 'flying machine' which allowed the dancers to appear weightless. This contraption allowed Gosselin to appear in pointe shoes, the first time this had been done. She did not dance en pointe, but with the aid of the machine appeared in balances en pointe. This was done by balancing on a very small platform en pointe supported by wires; one critic wrote that her longest balance lasted a minute.

Gosselin was a pioneer in the world of pointework, paving the way for Amalia Brugnoli and Marie Taglioni. Sadly, she died on June 17, 1818 aged only 27.

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Tanaquil Le Clercq.

- Selene

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