Heinel, Anna (1753–1808)

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Heinel, Anna (1753–1808)

German ballerina . Born in Bayreuth, Germany, on October 4, 1753; died in 1808; married Gaëtan Vestris (a dancer and choreographer), around 1792; children: son Adolphe-Apoline-Marie-Angiolo Vestris (b. May 1791); (stepchild) Auguste Vestris.

Ballerina Anna Heinel, renowned for introducing the pirouette à la seconde (multiple pirouette), was dubbed by the French La Belle Statue. She was born in Bayreuth, Germany, in 1753 and began dancing, at age 14, at the highly respected opera house in Stuttgart. Shortly thereafter, in 1768, she debuted at the Paris Opéra in danse noble, impressing critics with her tall, stately figure and, of course, her dazzling pirouette. Heinel had affairs with the Prince de Conti and Comte de Laraguais (the husband of Sophie Arnould ).

Heinel became extremely popular at the Opéra, even eclipsing the renowned dancer and choreographer Gaëtan Vestris, who was reputedly so jealous that he used his position as ballet master to discredit her. When he tried to hide her in minor roles, the public hissed Vestris and sided with Heinel. Even so, the backstage mood was so unpleasant that she asked for a leave of absence.

Heinel finally took refuge in England, where she contracted at the King's Opera House in 1771. She returned to Paris in 1776 and appeared as Roxane in Apelles et Campaspe, which was staged by Jean Georges Noverre as his first offering in Paris. Over the next few years, Heinel's ongoing feud with Gaëtan Vestris apparently dissolved, and the two fell in love. An astonished public learned that Heinel had taken up with her former nemesis, and both had applied to the directors for permission to retire to pursue family life. Vestris was then 53, Heinel 29. They were eventually married in time to welcome their son in May 1791.


Migel, Parmenia. The Ballerinas: From the Court of Louis XIV to Pavlova. NY: Macmillan, 1972.