Laurel Hill gravestone honors trail-blazing ballerina

After 112 years, the final resting place of Mary Ann Lee, America’s first prima ballerina, has been marked.

Widely considered to be the finest ballerina of her time, Lee was the first American to dance the lead role in Giselle, a ballet about a young woman’s ghost protecting her lover from vengeful spirits.

Lee gained fame at a time when the United States produced very few classical dancers and the public lovingly referred to her as “Our Mary Ann.”

She eventually married and spent the remainder of her life teaching dance in the City of Brotherly Love. Lee died of old age in 1899 and was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery, largely forgotten in the decades that followed.

During a recent graveside ceremony, soloists from the Pennsylvania Ballet joined Laurel Hill Cemetery for the official dedication of Lee’s gravestone.

Barbara F. Malinsky, official biographer of Mary Ann Lee for the International Encyclopedia of Dance, spoke about the life and legacy of America’s First Ballerina.

May she now rest in peace.

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