Important Events in Dance

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1600Fabritio Caroso's The Nobility of Ladies is printed at Venice. The work treats the rules dancers must master for success on the ballroom floor and includes a number of choreographies for popular dances of the day. It will be re-issued in a second edition in 1605.
The marriage of King Henri IV to Marie de Medici is celebrated at Florence. As part of the festivities an opera is performed with a series of interludes or intermedi mounted between the acts. These intermedi require more than 100 performers and 1,000 men to control the elaborate stage machinery. Dance figures prominently throughout the production.
1602Cesare Negri publishes the second of his dance manuals at Venice entitled The Grace of Love. Negri's work will be republished two years later in a new edition and, with Caroso's The Nobility of Ladies, will dominate ballroom dancing styles in courtly societies in Italy and elsewhere in Europe for the first third of the seventeenth century.
1605Ben Jonson's The Masque of Blackness is performed in London at court. The work is the first to be produced through Jonson's partnership with the architect Inigo Jones. Over the next 25 years the two will produce almost thirty such productions, making use of imaginative scenery, dance, music, and poetry grouped loosely around a theme.
1610King Henri IV is assassinated in Paris and his nine-year-old son, Louis XIII, assumes the throne under the regency of his mother, Marie de Medici. During Louis' long reign he will expand the crown's patronage of the ballet de cour, a form of spectacle performed at court that mixed dance, music, and poetry around a loose theme. The ballets are staged and performed by members of the court and the king and queen. Royal patronage of the late-Renaissance form will continue during the first half of Louis' son and successor's reign.
1617Ben Jonson introduces the continental custom of performing an antimasque as an interlude in his court masques. In contrast to the elevated themes that were common to the English masques, the anti-masques were notable for their burlesque humor and their improvised dances which were performed by professional troupes of comedians and dancers, usually before the masque's conclusion.
1623François de Lauze's Apology for Dance is printed in France, heralding the development of a new style. The work includes instructions for new steps as well as movements of the upper body. It also is the first dance manual to include a description of the plié and elevé, two stretching exercises used to this day that also became important elements of Baroque dance.
1634King Charles I of England demands that the Inns of Court produce the masque entitled "The Triumph of Peace" at a cost of £21,000. Hundreds of musicians and dancers participate.
c. 1635The courante and sarabande reign as two of the most popular courtly dances of the mid-seventeenth century.
1640In Spain, Juan de Esquivel Navarro's Sober Discourse on the Art of Dancing is published. Like de Lauze's earlier treatise, it outlines a greater range of movements that will become popular in the social and professional dancing of the Baroque period.
1650Pierre Beauchamp, an accomplished dancer, is appointed to supervise dances and the ballets de cour performed in the royal court of France. Beauchamp is credited with creating the five classic positions used in ballet, although he may have only codified existing practices of his day.
1651John Playford publishes The English Dancing Master in England. The work will become important in spreading knowledge of English country dances throughout Europe, particularly in France, where country dancing known as contredanses will become the fashion by the end of the century.
1653Louis XIV appoints Jean-Baptiste Lully as his court composer. One of Lully's chief duties will be to compose music for the many ballets de cour performed in the French court.
1660Charles II is restored as king of England; French dancers begin to make their way to England to perform professionally for the court.
1661The Royal Academy of Dance is founded in France. Like other French academies, this institution will establish standards that will aid in the professionalization of dance as an art form.
1668The Royal Academy of Music, later to become known merely as the Opera, is founded in France. This institution will have widespread influence on the development of French music, opera, and ballet.
1670King Louis XIV gives up dancing in court spectacles and productions. During the coming decades his refusal to participate in the French ballets de cour inadvertently aids the rise of professionally performed ballets at court.
Molière's play The Bourgeois Gentleman is first performed for the king at Versailles. Like many of the dramatist's plays written around this time, the plot makes frequent use of dance.
1672The first professional ballet dance troupe, led by Pierre Beauchamp, is founded at Paris. The troupe will perform at the Opera in the city and for the king at Versailles.
1681The first women dancers join the ballet troupe of the Opera in Paris and dance in Lully's production of the Triumph of Love.
1687The death of the influential court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully allows dancers and choreographers greater independence from opera in the French theater. In place of dance's former use as a mere divertisement or diversion inserted between the acts of opera, new opera ballets, or merely "ballets" for short, quickly begin to be performed. The plots of these ballets are still revealed via singing, but the trend is to an ever greater dominance of dance in the production.
1688The Marriage of the Great Cathos is performed at Versailles. André Philidor wrote the music and Jean Favier choreographed the work's dance. Although within the traditional genre of ballets de cour, the work displayed a heightened intermingling of dance, plot, and music.
1697André Lorin's Book of Country Dances Presented to the King appears in France. Lorin's work is the first to include schematic diagrams of how the different figures should be created on the ballroom floor.
1700Raoul-Auger Feuillet publishes his Choreography. The work is the first to make use of a system of notation for laying down the various steps used in a dance. Because of its clear method of presenting the various dances it outlines, it is enthusiastically received throughout Europe and translated into English, Spanish, and Italian, thus helping to spread knowledge of French practices throughout eighteenth-century Europe.
1704The Opera's ballet troupe in Paris numbers 21 members, including ten women and eleven men.
1706John Weaver translates Feuillet's Choreography from French into English, publishing it in the same year as Orchesography. In its English edition it will become one of the most widely distributed books on dance of the eighteenth century. Weaver's translation will subsequently be re-translated into German in 1717.
c. 1710In England, the dance choreographies of Mister Isaac are popular among members of the court. These dances are printed in short, easy-to-understand versions that make use of the new practices of dance notation.
1713A school for training adult dancers is founded at the Opera in Paris.
1717John Weaver's choreographed pantomime The Loves of Mars and Venus is first performed in London. During the coming decades Weaver will experiment with ballet d'action, ballets without words in which the story is entirely told through dance and mimed gestures.
1720The young King Louis XV dances in a ballet de cour staged at court. This will be the last time that the king and amateur members of the court perform in one of these spectacles. By this time, theatrical dances at court have become increasingly the preserve of professionals.
1725Pierre Rameau's The Dancing Master is published in France. The work describes a number of steps and is one of the greatest sources of information on eighteenth-century dance. In a second book published around the same time Rameau tries to improve upon the system of dance notation first pioneered by Feuillet around 1700.
1728John Essex translates Pierre Rameau's The Dancing Master into English.
1734The French ballerina and choreographer Marie Sallé performs a radically new version of the ancient legend of Pygmalion at London. Sallé chooses to dance without the traditionally confining corset used by women and without the masks that dancers commonly donned at the time.
c. 1735The minuet reigns as the most popular courtly dance of the mid-eighteenth century. It is a couple's dance performed to music written in triple time. In various altered forms the dance will survive into the twentieth century.
1748The important dance theorist Pierre Rameau dies in France.
c. 1750In France, the Royal Opera's dance troupe now numbers eighteen men and twenty-four women professionals.
The operas of the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau grant a heightened importance to ballet, and the dances inserted into these works often rival the sung drama for dramatic effect.
1753The dance master Jean-Georges Noverre arrives in Paris and displeases audiences there with his unconventional productions of pantomime ballets. He moves on to Stuttgart in Germany, where he develops new ballets d'action in a more conducive atmosphere.
1754Louis de Cohusac publishes his Ancient and Modern Dance in France. The work advocates greater dramatic expressiveness, and its impact is to be felt in many new works of dance drama that appear in the coming years.
1758Gasparo Angiolini is appointed to direct the ballet at Vienna. During his tenure he will produce many ballets d'action (dance dramas that reenact a story line) in imitation of the dances of the ancient Greeks.
c. 1760In court circles in France a new fondness for country dances performed in squares develops. The fashion will eventually supersede the popularity of the elaborate and complex couple's dances that had been popular in the first half of the century.
1763The Opera burns in Paris and will not be reopened for seven years. The company performs in the meantime in the Tuileries Palace nearby.
Jean-Georges Noverre experiences a great success at Stuttgart with the production of Medée et Jason. The work will be widely performed throughout Europe.
1767Jean-Georges Noverre assumes the position of court ballet master at Vienna. His duties include the supervision of dance in Vienna's two court theaters. There he stages a number of successful works of ballet d'action.
1770The Paris Opera re-opens with a performance of Rameau's 1749 work, Zoroastre. In the coming years newer forms of ballets d'action will gain greater popularity in this important theater, an institution that by this time had become one of the most staid in Europe. A number of other theaters flourish in Paris at the same time that make vivid use of the new narrative dance styles.
1776Jean-Georges Noverre receives the position of dance master at the Paris Opera. His experimental ballets d'action will fail to please Parisians, forcing his resignation a few years later.
1779In Paris a ballet school is founded at the Opera for the training of children in dance techniques.
1781Fire breaks out in the Paris Opera at the Palais Royale during a ballet production. Disaster is narrowly averted. In the same year the Opera moves to new quarters in a specially built theater. Far from the center of town, the poor roads leading to it will mean that audiences dwindle during periods of poor weather.
1789Revolutionary crowds force the closure of the Opera on 12 July, two days before the storming of the Bastille.
1790Louis XVI's financial difficulties cause him to abandon his patronage of the Opera in Paris. Administration of the institution is handed over to the city of Paris.
1792Ballet productions at the Paris Opera reflect the new revolutionary sentiments of the Parisian populace. Many aristocratic patrons of dance have by now fled the country or will soon be executed.
1793Financial necessity and the Revolution in France force Jean-Georges Noverre to spend two seasons working as a choreographer in London. His productions are warmly received.
A number of dancers and choreographers in France fall under suspicion in the new Revolutionary order. Their ties to the aristocrats of the Old Regime often mark them as counter-revolutionaries.