Dancing across Europe: Danish prima ballerina Lucile Grahn

illustration of female ballet dancer

Lucile Grahn, the first Danish ballerina to became internationally famous and pursue a ballet career, danced on some of the most prestigious stages across Europe.

Born in Copenhagen in 1819, Lucina Alexia Grahn was a ballerina, ballet mistress, and choreographer.

She trained at the Royal Danish Theatre School in Copenhagen, where her principal teacher was the ballet master August Bournonville, making her official debut in 1834.

The following year, she created the leading role in Valdemar. Together with Bournonville, she travelled to Paris in 1834 to see Marie Taglioni in La Sylphide, and upon return to Denmark, they produced their own version.

EXPLORE MORE: Images of ballet in our ballet gallery

Following successful productions and collaboration between Bournonville and Grahn, Soon differences appeared in the relationship between Bournonville and Grahn, as she wanted to dance at the famed Paris Opéra Ballet.

In 1839, Grahn eventually ended her position at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen and moved to Paris.

Within a few years, Grahn had performed multiple roles in the grand opera houses throughout Europe – in Paris, St Petersburg, Milan, Berline and London.

Grahn became a famed, well-known dancer in her own right, touring Europe dancing and frequently producing the ballets in which she appeared.

Within twenty years, Grahn had retired from the stage. In 1856, she married the Austrian tenor Friedrich Young.

EXPLORE MORE DANCERS: Josephine Baker – dancer, spy and freedom fighter

From 1858 to 1861 she worked as ballet mistress in Leipzig, Germany, and, later, from 1869 to 1875, she led the ballet school at the Court Opera in Munich.

Grahn died in 1907, aged 87, and is now remembered as one of the most popular ballerinas of the 19th century.

EXPLORE MORE DANCERS: Nijinsky, ballet boy

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Lucile Grahn, The Pas de Venus in the Ballet of The Stature Fair, John Brandard, The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, CC BY-NC-ND

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.