In 1895 citizens of Paris were flowing to see the La Princesse lointaine at the theater. Great Sarah Bernhardt played the leading female role on the stage. And French dramatist Edmond Rostand, who wrote this drama was lauded by the whole Europe. In the center of his creation there was a story about love of a troubadour to a beautiful princess who lived far away from him … So, where did this story come from?
Well, once upon a time there was a famous troubadour Jaufré Rudel. He really existed and was quite famous composer and poet of his times. Rudel is even considered to be one of the inventors of the “love from afar” style in troubadours poetry. He was of noble origin, in fact, his title was Prince of Blaye. History did not leave us much about Rudel, the only thing that is known for the fact is that he died overseas during Second Crusade around 1147. Several his fellows-troubadours, including famous Marcabru, composed their songs about him, lamenting on his death. Seven of Rudel’s poems have survived to the present day, four of them with music. And here is where we could end this story, when something interesting happened.
His mentors and teachers that helped him start his amazing career of a dancer were also the best that Russian ballet could offer. Gerdt’s first teacher was Alexander Pimenov who himself was a student of the Father of Russian ballet - Charles Didelot. His next teacher was Jean Petipa, famous ballet dancer, father of probably the second person of importance after Didelot for Russian ballet - Marius Petipa. Old Jean in his youth underwent extensive training by the giant of the French ballet Auguste Vestris.
Paul Gerdt was quite an eccentric, nobody at the theater knew how old he was. When asked, he would give one and the same response, claiming that he was 23 years old. He excelled not only in dancing but in teaching as well. He left after himself the whole brilliant team of students among which there were Anna Pavlova, George Balanchine, Michel Fokin, Tamara Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinsky. It is interesting to note that Michel Fokin trained Gerdt’s daughter - great ballerina Elizaveta Gerdt. And Vaslav Nijinsky was Elizaveta’s partner in ballet dancing.