THE ICON: Suzanne Douvillier
THE LEGACY: Long before it was the birthplace of jazz, and even before it built its famed French Opera House, New Orleans was the epicenter of American dance, thanks to Suzanne Douvillier — also known as Madam Placide — a French ballerina, choreographer and pantomimist who is recognized as the first celebrity ballet dancer in the United States. After building her name by bouncing around in New York; Philadelphia; Boston; and Charleston, South Carolina, she and husband Louis Douvillier in 1799 settled in New Orleans, where she became a fixture on the local performance scene. In addition to being a dancer, she was a barrier breaker, as she is believed to be the country’s first female choreographer, first female scene-painter and the first woman to perform on-stage as a man.
THE ARTIST: D. Lammie Hanson
THE INSPIRATION: “She was tall and commanding in her bearing … and went through the scene with exquisite grace and ease.” — actor and theater manager Noah Miller Ludlow, on Suzanne Douvillier’s final performance, in 1818 in New Orleans