Along with Marie Taglioni, the Austrian Fanny Elssler was one of the
most celebrated dancers of the Romantic Ballet. Her contemporary, the French
writer Theophile Gautier wrote of her in 1838: "It can be emphatically
stated that Mlle. Fanny Elssler is the most beautiful of all the women
appearing on the stage today...Beneath the amorous languor, the intoxicating
sensuality that yields to the heat of passion, and the feminine sweetness
and all the gentle fascination of a ballerina, can be sensed the agility,
the sudden speed and the steely muscles of a young athlete. Also, Mlle.
Elssler appeals to everybody, even to women who cannot endure ballerinas."
The Chevalier Henry Wikoff, a Princetonian, was
the impresario who brought Fanny Elssler to America for a two-year tour
beginning in 1840. In her Biographical Dictionary of Dance, the American
dance historian Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner writes this: "Elssler
was the only one of the major Romantic ballerinas to reach the United States,
or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere; without being overly chauvinistic,
this fact must also denote her as unique. Nineteenth-century America
was a prime market for Romanticism in the other arts and media and welcomed
Elssler's brand of ballet."