Ballets de cour

Ballets de cour (court ballet) is the name given to ballets performed in the 16th and 17th centuries at court. Jean-Baptiste Lully is considered the most important composer of music for ballets de cour and instrumental to the development of the form. During his employment by Louis XIV as director of the Académie Royale de Music, he worked with Pierre Beauchamp, Molière, Philippe Quinault and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine to develop ballet as an art form equal to that of the accompanying music.

Beauchamp, superintendent of the ballet and director of the Académie Royale de Danse, codified the five positions based on the foundations set down by Thoinot Arbeau in his 1589 Orchésographie. Emphasising the technical aspects of dance, Beauchamp set out the first rules of ballet technique. The emphasis on turnout, light costumes, female dancers, and long dance sequences with light, flexible footwear, all first seen in L'Europe galante (1697), was a turning point in ballet practice that led to the pre romantic ballet era. Pierre Rameau expanded on Beauchamp's work in Le Maître à danser (1725), further detailing carriage of the body, steps and positions.

The first ballet de cour to be performed was the Circé ou le Balet comique de la Royne, performed on 15 October 1581 at the court of Catherine de' Medici. From then on, ballets de cour were performed at weddings and festivals. An important step towards the ballet de cour in its final form was done during the reign of Louis XIII, with such rich and ravishing ballets de cour as La Délivrance de Renaud and the Ballet de la Merlaison. [1] The ballets de cour developed into the comédie-ballet and then the opéra-ballet during the course of the 18th century. This was a fully operatic form that included ballet as a prominent feature of the performance. Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Indes galantes (1735) is considered to be the work that signalled the divergence of social (ballroom) dance and ballet.

See also


  1. Catherine Cessac, L'orchestre de Louis XIII, p.19-20
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