Aug 27 2011
For the period of roughly 150 years baroque dance ruled in Europe. Throughout 17 century and half of 18th century baroque dance was tightly connected with baroque music, opera and theater. It would probably be forgotten and totally discarded by next generations if French noble style of the baroque dance did not survive in its new form. We know it as classical ballet.
French noble style or belle danse appeared in 17th century at the French court of Louis 14. It included the majority of great innovations derived from European baroque dance and, thus, became a stylistic ancestor of classical ballet. During the baroque era French noble style used the same basic technique at social events – in court ballets, theatrical dance and at public theaters. Naturally, in theatrical productions like opera-ballets or big court ballet entertainments it was danced mostly by professional dancers. However, some aristocrats including French king Louis 14 himself experimented with the baroque ballet dance too.
Modern encyclopedias list the following types of French noble style of baroque dance:
- Entrée grave
- Loure (slow gigue)
Other baroque dance styles are much less well-studied. For example, we don’t know a lot about the Italian and Spanish dances of the baroque period. As time progressed, French ballroom dances such as the sarabande or minuet became so refined that they were widely adopted not just as ballet show but also at fashionable courts.
We are lucky to have over 300 choreographies left to us in Beauchamp-Feuillet notation comissioned by Louis 14. It was used to record dances for the stage and domestic use throughout the 18th century. Many other historical dance manuals of that period survived as well. This wealth of documents has allowed modern scholars and dancers to recreate French baroque ballet dances. The revival of baroque music in 20th century sparkled renewed interest in baroque dance as well. However, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that serious scholars began to decipher the notation and reconstruct baroque ballet dances.