Saturday, September 3, 2016


THE BALLARINA COURTESANS?  The Paris Ballet was called a Brothel.

(1824-1892 approx.)
An 18th century photo identified
as Celestine Emarot from

To become a ballerina in the 19th century, a young woman often also had to be a Mistress of a well-to-do man.  An average dancer made between 3,000 and 6,000 francs a year, while having to afford her own toe shoes, clothes, and much else on a very low income.  Many as teenagers become prostitutes, but with the hope that they would through the long and hard physical work of becoming a dancer, rise up to the top. Being Kept, having a Patron, being one man's Mistress was a better option.

Ballerinas often started in the corps, where the girls, about ten to fourteen years old, were called "Petit Rats," not just because they had to work like rats to develop their dancing skill and be competitive to advance, but because they often ate like rats!  Half starving and too thin and sickly much of the time, putting in extremely long days, the corps required endurance while in survival mode. Celestine Emerot, our Mistress of the Month here at Mistress Manifesto BlogSpot, was one of those girls.

Born illegitimate and impoverished in 1824 as Marguerite-Adelaide Emerot, her own mother hoped she would save them both from destitution and encouraged men to interest her and patronize her. When she was fifteen years old, and he twenty-four, Baron Charles de Chassiron, a French Diplomat who hung out at The Jockey Club (apparently the hang out of a number of men who had mistresses), began their affair.  But maybe they didn't have sex right away.  He got her pregnant.  She gave birth to a daughter, Jeanne-Emma, on September 23, 1842, which was supposed to be nine months from their first sexual encounter.  He abandoned them. 

The Baron's genes were better than Celestine's, and their daughter, Emma, said to look just like him, though no beauty, turned out to be a natural dancer, with the flexibility and grace perfect for ballet that her ballerina mother never had.

Celestine danced in minor parts for fourteen years and at best got mixed reviews.  You could say she was a lousy dancer but had little choice. She had to find another ballet patron of her own, to protect herself from having to prostitute, and to protect her daughter more than herself.  Celestine then became the mistress of a man of less wealth than the Baron, Ferdinand de Montguyon,  also a member of the Jockey Club.

She became a controlling mother, while Montguyon, a ballet fanatic, took fatherly interest in Emma's education.  As he financed a fine education for the young girl at a convent, called Institute des Demoiselles Cathonnet  (Catholic School for Girls), it was expected that she would escape the ballet.  But she became a dancer anyway, one that outshone Celestine's ability by far. And Montguyon turned out to be quite the PR man. He managed to get Napoleon III and his wife interested in Emma, who renamed herself Emma Livry, and used his influence so that she was taken on by the Paris Ballet, skipping the corps, as a Principal Dancer!

Celestine Emarot's daughter Emma Livry from WikiCommons
Emma Livry distanced herself from her mother's reputation with a name change.
BALLARINA by Deirdre Kelly
"Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol Of Perfection"
is a primary source for information
on this Month's Mistress of the Month, Celestine Emerot,
her Ballarina daughter, Emma Livry,
and the lifestyle of French Ballarinas.
A retired famous ballet dancer, and Italian named La Taglioni, came to see Emma dance and instead of seeing her as a rival, saw her as the Next Great.  In 1858, Emma danced "La Sylphide," a dance La Taglioni was known for, and the reviews were fabulous.  Emma Livry was known to be of the Romantic tradition.
Taglioni in a Ballet called "Gypsy Girl"
Image from WikiCommons
Now La Taglioni decided that she would invent and choreograph a ballet just for Emma, called "La Papillion"  (The Butterfly) which would emphasize her Romantic aspect, her breathtaking grace.  The ballet premiered on November 26, 1860 and was a success. She continued to dance this signature ballet. 
But on November 15, 1862 the worst possible thing that could happen to a dancer on stage did, during a dress rehearsal for "La Muette de Portic."  While Celestine and Montguyon watched from a private box, Emma fluffed her skirts which fanned the flame of a gaslight, also called a limelight, the light stages were illuminated by before there was electricity, and a known hazard, and she caught on fire.  In her terror she ran, screamed, panicked and pushing away a backstage fireman and others who tried to come to her rescue.  Finally, she was tackled and rolled in a wet blanket.  (This is how we have come to say to someone who is hushing out our enthusiasm "Don't be a wet blanket!)  Alive but burned over 40 % of her body, with only a fringe of clothing still covering her, her corset bones deep in her burnt flesh, it was the beginning of the end.  Celestine fainted at the sight of her precious daughter.
For 131 days Emma lay on her stomach, with her hands stretched to her sides to avoid her rib cage, as doctors and nuns oversaw her agonizing treatment, afraid to cry out in pain which would make it worse.  Celestine even paid the city of Paris to cover the noisy street outside her daughter's bedchamber with straw, trying to kill the sound.  Montguyon, PR man as always, claimed she was healing and would return to dancing.
Emma wanted to live.  Her main concern being her mother, Celestine, what would happen to her if she died.  Finally, having been given the courtesy of the use of a country house by Napoleon III, in the spring of 1863 she made her first appearance, dressed all in white, and waved to those assembled along the road to see her.  But blood poisoning prevailed and she never made it.  Emma died having convulsions at Celestine's rented apartment  in Neuilly -Sur-Sienne on the way.  Her funeral was at in Notre Dame-de-Lorette and she was buried all in white - called a virgin's funeral - in the Montmarte Cemetery with a corps of ballet girls in attendance.
The "now what" began for Celestine.  She pawned her jewelry to pay 27,000 francs for her daughter's medical bills.  Montguyon asked Napoleon III for help and she was granted 40,000 francs plus another 6,000 of an annual pension.  Celestine Emerot was all right until 1871 when the Second Empire fell and the Third Republic began.  She lost the pension. Her relationship with Montguyon wasn't the same after Emma died, and when she died 30 years later at the age of 68 of cancer, she was in a small apartment and alone in life.
Many feel that when Emma died it was the end of Paris as the World Capital of Ballet, the end of a 200 year rule, with French dancers going to Russia.
As this fascinating book by Deirdre Kelly suggests, suffering, sex, and scandal are still part of the world of the ballerina.  Here's her site! Deirdre Kelly
C 2016  Missy Rapport / Mistress Manifesto BlogSpot
All Rights Reserved including Internet and International Rights
If you're interested in dancer mistresses you might want to go into my archives and read about ISADORA DUNCAN, MISTRESS OF THE MONTH FOR February 2016.

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