Ballet's Beginning in France

January 21, 2006

First emerging as Italian court entertainment during the Renaissance, court dance, called ballet de cour, was introduced to France by Catherine de Medici when she married into the French royal family. The ballets were performed for and by the aristocracy, employing elaborate costumes and scenery.

By the time of the reign of Louis XIV, more than 60 years after the introduction of ballet to France, ballet had flourished in France. Louis XIV had a great love for dance, having performed in a number of court entertainments himself. With a desire to see ballet become a serious art form, he established the Académie Royale de Danse (1661). Here, ballet vocabulary and technique still used today was developed.

During the 18th century, ballet shifted away from its aristocratic roots taking on themes more accessible to the masses. Ballets such as La Fille Mal Gardee (The Ill Watched Daughter) and La Sylphide exemplified this shift. Accordingly, Jean-Georges Noverre’s Lettres sur La Danse et Les Ballets (1760) advanced ballet d'action, in which the dance tells a story and the dancers represent characters. The Romantic era, as this time is called, also ushered in pointework and the corps de ballet, the group of female dancers who back up the principal ballerina.

After 1850, ballet's popularity declined in France, but grew strong in Russia thanks to choreographers such as Marius Petipa. It would later experience a resurgence throughout the world.

Interested in seeing a ballet performance in France??View the Paris Opera Schedule

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