Louis Xiv

Dance prior to Louis XIV was very different to what we recognise as dance today. This essay will explore how dance was changed throughout the reign of Louis XIV as well as the effect that he himself had on dance, especially focusing on the rise of the professional dancer. It will look specifically at Catherine de’Medici, Moliere, Lully and Beauchamp.

In the past dance was not performed by professionally trained people, instead it was usually nobility whom were amateurs. Members of the aristocracy would often lead these communal dances as a type of banquet, which often lasted up to four or five hours. The entertainment was performed between courses. The entertainment was a mixture of all the arts from instrumental music, to masked performers. The dancing itself was very sedate and dignified. This was linked to the fact that the dancing was in single sex groups, both male and females performed but not at the same time. The performances were intended to show grace and decorum, compared to today’s dancing, which is based on strength and flexibility.

Another key difference in the early decades was that the performance area was a hall with the audience viewing from above as this was before the proscenium arch stage. This brought the attention to the floor patterns being created by the dancers as opposed to the movements in particular. Much of the dance was restricted by the costumes of the time which were based on the fashion and court dress of the day.
The arts were greatly related at this time in that the displays included a great range from poetry to dance. This meant the founding of The Academic de Musique in 1570 had a great effect on the development of the court ballet. At the same time Catherine de’Medici was said to have brought a change in dance over from Italy an example of which being ‘Le Paradis d’Amour’ in 1572. Hertitier (1963) explains how she was taken well by the French Royals and her work was used for many special occasions.

In this time the...