One of the famous ballet dancers and innovators Jean Dauberval was born in the times of the French Kingdom in the southern city of Montpellier in 1742. The name given to him at birth was Jean Bercher, which he later changed to Dauberval and a couple of times to D’Auberval. In his teenage years Jean’s talents were noticed by the great Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of the ballet d’action.
Noverre took gifted Dauberval under his wing and trained him at the school of the famous Paris Opéra. Noverre’s tutelage helped Jean start an astonishing career. At the age of 21 he became a premier danseur of the Académie Royale de Musique. And 8 years later in 1771 he was appointed the Ballet Master.
Soon Jean Dauberval grew up to be an undisputed head of the company who acted as chief choreographer and the artistic director. And from 1781 till 1783 he officially became the First Ballet Master of the Académie or, as they say in French - Maître de Ballet.
For unknown for us reason this all ended in 1783. Suddenly Jean Dauberval decided to move to Bordeaux and accepted the position of the First Ballet Master at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, that had been inaugurated as theater a couple of years before his arrival. It was a beautiful building constructed by the famous architect of the Enlightenment Victor Louis who was genius also created galleries of Palais-Royal in Paris.
Victor Louis envisioned the theater in Bordeaux as a temple of the Arts and Light, with a neo-classical facade endowed with a portico of 12 Corinthian style colossal columns. 12 statues were supported by the columns and they represented the nine muses and three goddesses.
At Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux Jean Dauberval staged his most famous ballet Le Ballet de la paille. We know it today under the name of La Fille mal gardèe. Throughout centuries this ballet is one the most enduring and popular works with ballet companies throughout the world.
Dauberval’s ballet had such a wild public success that he traveled to London staged it there. This is where Dauberval changed the title of the ballet to La Fille mal gardée, which remains the title of the work today.
For the first performance in London in 1791 Dauberval’s wife Mme. Théodore reprised her role as Lise. And Dauberval’s student, Charles Didelot, known to us as the Father of Russian Ballet, danced Colas.
Jean Dauberval lived to see the times of the glittering French Empire of Napoleon and died surrounded by his family and students in 1806.
Jean Dauberval in Sylvie, 1766 (work of unknown artist)