#ThrowbackThursday: The Blue Dahlia

This week's #ThrowbackThursday features another little-known ballet, The Blue Dahlia.

The Blue Dahlia, or Le Dahlia bleu, was a fantastic ballet in two acts. Both the libretto and the choreography were by Marius Petipa, while the score was by his frequent collaborator, Cesare Pugni. The ballet was premiered by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, on May 12 1860. The original cast included Petipa's wife Maria Surovshchikova-Petipa as the Blue Dahlia, and famed character dancer Timofei Stukolkin as Beausoleil.

No photograph of Marie Petipa as the Blue Dahlia exists; here she is as the Lilac Fairy in 'The Sleeping Beauty' with Lyubov Vishnevskaya as an Attendant, 1890

The ballet was renewed several times. In 1875, Petipa renewed the first act for the debut of his daughter, Marie Petipa, at the Mariinsky Theatre. The work was renewed again on March 5 - 18 1905 for the Imperial Ballet, by Pavel Gerdt. It was presented at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre by the Imperial Ballet, starring Lubov Egorova as the Blue Dahlia. This was not without controversy however; the original choreographer, Marius Petipa, hated Gerdt's version so much that he requested his name be removed from the program.

Lubov Egorova as the Blue Dahlia in the 1905 production (Gerdt)

The Blue Dahlia did not survive the Russian Revolution of 1917 in either Petipa's or Gerdt's incarnation. Like so many other ballets, it has been completely lost, as was its one-time star. Marie Petipa, retired by the time of the Revolution, had her pension and her property removed from her by the Soviet authorities. Her pleas for the return of her pension were ignored, and she was forced to move to Paris, where she died in poverty some years later, and was buried in a common grave. She had been one of the greatest stars of the Imperial Ballet.

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

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