18th Century Ballet

By: Beth, Bethany, Braden, Mia, and Abby

Significant Ballets -Beth

Pygmalion- It was one-act opera with the usual solo numbers, duets, and choruses, interspersed with dance episodes and it was more pageant-like than plot-driven and planned out. It was composed in 1748 to a libretto by Ballot de Savot, an associate of the all-powerful court arts patron La Pouplinière. The story of Pygamalion was goes back to Greek and Roman mythology. Rameau (the creator) intended it to be a sweet romantic comedy.

Interesting Facts-

The opera was preformed 30 times in 1748 and recieved great reviews three years later

The first dancer danced in only a muslin dress and loose hair

La Fille mal garde- translation: the poorly guarded girl. It is a comic play seperated into two acts. It is inspired by Pierre-Antoine Baudouin's painting in 1789-La réprimande. The ballet was first premiered July 1st 1789 at the Grand Theatre de Bordeaux. The ballet is now presented in two different versions either Alexander Gorsky's or Peter Ludwig Hertel's.

Interesting Facts-

This ballet was one of the oldest and most important works in modern ballet

This ballet has been edited and changed many times over the years but has never recieved less than 6 scores

Jean Dauberval was the creator and was taught by Charles Didelot known as the "father of russian ballet"

The painting it was based on was of a girl with her clothes tattered crying while an older lady scolded her outside of a barn. In the back you can see her lover running up the stairs hiding


Costumes -Bethany

Before the 18th century, there were no clothes specifically designed for dancing purposes. Women generally wore long-sleeves and long, flowy skirts while men wore heavy stiff tunics, which allowed restricted big movements. During the early 18th century, Marie Camargo, a women dancer, shortened her skirt just above her ankles and audiences were shocked she would do such a thing. It wasn't until later skirts became shorter and tighter to see the dancers movements and more intricate footwork. Because of the change in clothing, women became more important in attracting audiences.


Also during the 18th century, tights were invented by a costume designer named Maillot. Tights allowed more freedom and movement of dance that was never experienced before. Because of this dramatic change, dances were no longer just little steps, but became more dramatic, bigger movements.

Ballet Slippers:

Up until the mid 18th century, women's ballet shoes had heels. Marie Camargo not only was the first person to shorten her skirt, but also was the first women to have ballet shoes without heels. Ballet slippers without heels allowed dancers to perform leaps that wouldn't have been able to do with heels. Later, all ballet slippers had no heels and ribbons were added for a more secure fit.


Letters on Dancing - Braden

Born April 29, 1727, Paris, Fr.died Oct. 19, 1810, Saint-Germain-en-Laye) French dancer and choreographer. His treatise Letters on Dancing and Ballets (1760) stressed the need for unified dramatic structure by integrating story, music, choreography, and set design, as opposed to the loosely connected episodes of the dance suite that then prevailed.

Significant People

Marie Sallé- Braden

(1707–1756) was a French dancer and choreographer known for her expressive, dramatic performances rather than a series of "leaps and frolics" typical of ballet of her time.[1] As a choreographer she integrated music, costumes, and dance styles of her ballets with their themes, thereby anticipating the reforms made by choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre in the late 18th century.[1] She argued that costumes should reflect and represent the character, a novel idea at the time. She changed the costume from heavy long dress to muslin flowing material which caused shock and delight. She often performed without a skirt or bodice, rebelling against the traditional costume of the time.[1]

Jean-Georges Noverre- Mia

Jean-Georges Noverre (29 April 1727 – 19 October 1810) was a French dancer and balletmaster, and is generally considered the creator of ballet d'action, a precursor of the narrative ballets of the 19th century. His birthday is now observed as International Dance Day.

His first professional appearances occurred as a youth in Paris at the Opéra-Comique, at Fontainebleau, in Berlin before Frederick II and his brother Prince Henry of Prussia, in Dresden and Strasburg. In 1747 he moved to Strasbourg where he remained until 1750 before moving to Lyon. In 1751, he composed his first great work, Les Fêtes Chinoises for Marseilles. The work was revived in Paris in 1754 to great acclaim. In 1755, he was invited by Garrick to London, where he remained for two years.

Between 1758 and 1760 he produced several ballets at Lyon, and published his Lettres sur la danse et les ballets (fr). It is from this period that the revolution in the art of the ballet for which Noverre was responsible can be dated. He was next engaged by Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg, and later Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, until 1774. In 1775, he was appointed maître des ballets of the Paris Opera at the request of Queen Marie Antoinette. He returned to Vienna in Spring of 1776 to stage ballets there but in June 1776 he returned again to Paris. He regained this post until the French Revolution reduced him to poverty. He died on 19 October 1810 at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Noverre's friends included Voltaire, Mozart, Frederick the Great and David Garrick (who called him "the Shakespeare of the dance"). The ballets of which he was most proud were his La Toilette de Venus, Les Jalousies du sérail, La dour corsaire and Le Jaloux sans rival. Besides the letters, Noverre wrote Observations sur la construction d'une nouvelle salle de l'Opéra (1781); Lettres sur Garrick écrites a Voltaire (1801); and Lettre à un artiste sur les flies publiques (1801).

Marie Comargo- Mia

Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo (15 April 1710, Brussels –28 April 1770, Paris) sometimes known simply as La Camargo, was a French/Belgian dancer. The first woman to execute the entrechat quatre, Camargo was also responsible for two innovations in ballet as she was the first dancer to wear slippers instead of heeled shoes, and she was the first female to wear the short calf-length ballet skirt and the now standardized ballet tights.

Progession to Toe Dancing- Abby

Before the 1800's, dancers were lifted by wires to make them float in the air in romantic dances.This was effective to an audience but the "floating" loo could have been very more realistic. Dancers soon came to realize they didnt need wires or ropes to "float", so then in the 1800s, toe dancing began to develop, although the dancers balanced on their toes only for a moment or two, this was called toe dancing and created a more realistic floating look. Toe dancing was a big part of the romantic era in ballet. The romantic era was all about pushing the limits of reality.

At first dancers used their own foot strength in toe dancing because blocked toe shoes had not yet been invented so they had to have super strong feet and toes. But finally, in 1880, the first toe shoes were created and made toe dancing much easier for women. The first shoes were satin shoes without heels and had square tipped toes. These were similar to the shoes that were in style at the time. They were also similar to what acrobats wore at the time. Ballerinas tried many different things to improve the shoes and make toe dancing easier. They used leather soles with extra stitching to reinforce the shoes. The shoes were often wrapped with muslin, felt or cardboard. Ribbons were also used to add strength to the ankles.