People consumed by their art.

Unfortunately, it ended badly for Livry. On Nov. 15, 1862, she fluffed her skirts too close to a gas lamp and went up in flames. As Livry ran in circles around the set screaming, fellow cast members and the audience watched in horror. Another dancer and a fireman tried to save her — the emperor later rewarded them for their bravery with cash — and managed to smother the flames by wrapping her in a blanket. But 40 percent of Livry’s body had been burned, and her corset melted into her ribs. She spent 36 hours wrapped in bandages in her dressing room, then another eight months recuperating, before dying of blood poisoning. Many dance scholars pinpoint Livry’s demise as the end of France’s dominant role in ballet. But her death also inspired safety measures: new designs for gas lamps, the invention of flame-retardant gauze and wet blankets hung in the wings just in case.

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Fiona Zublin — OZY

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