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Dangerous Dance

From the Troy (New York) Times, July 23, 1868.

It is a question of whether audiences or performers most desire compassion in the heat. The latter have the least to wear, but they have to work very hard. The poor ballet girls, for instance—see how night after night they pirouette and perspire in a blaze of footlights, border lights, side lights, calcium lights, and red fire, where the heat they have to endure often sends them staggering and fainting to the wings. People in front know very little of the real tortures of the stage, for there are others far greater than the heat.

A few evenings since, for instance, Morlacchi, in one of her inimitable dances, stepped into the opening of an illy closed trap—her food was torn and wrenched severely, but she finished her dance. The next night she danced again, although her injuries were so great that for a week after, she could not walk.

Once, in Philadelphia, this same brave girl was turning rapid pirouettes, steadied by the hand of a male dancer. The audience applauded her enthusiastically. She was so beautiful and graceful. She smiled and, reversing her swift motion, continued the series of twirls for a brief space, then bounded light as a sylph from the stage while the house shook with the applause. None in the audience knew that during all that movement which charmed them so much, her tow had been resting in an auger hole in the stage and that her revolutions tore the nail entirely off…the most beautiful and finished danseuse often has her shoes filled with blood three times in the course of the evening when she is doing the “toe business” as walking and dancing on the point of the great toes is termed. It looks very pretty, and the public expects it, not knowing that the agony of its performance forces the blood from under the toes with an exquisite torture worthy of the Inquisition.

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