The beginnings of classical ballet

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The Beginnings of Classical Ballet
THE quotation above is capable of many interpretations. The Balet comique de la Royne (1581) has been a convenient point at which to commence a history of ballet. This spectacle, which bore little resemblance to present-day ballet, was the climax of seventeen fetes given by Catherine de Medici to celebrate the betrothal of the Duc de Joyeuse to Marg-uerite de Lorraine-Vaudemont. It can also be interpreted as a climax of the Renaissance in France, when authors, having studied the theories, principles, technique and effects used in the plays of Greek dramatists, believed they were producing something similar.
The end (or object) of the production might be regarded as an expression of Catherine de Medici's hopes that by understanding the truths hidden in its symbolism and allegory: "Hearts would be softened and opposite opinions be brought together" (Champion) and the Protestant members of her court would see the errors of their ways and return to the Catholic church.
To find the seeds from which Balet comique and later ballets stem a search must be made amongst the dance rituals of primitive Greek tribes where originally the dancing of the group was everything, but where finally the priests and acolytes eliminated all others from the ceremony and continued their dance before a wondering audience. At this point in religious ritual the story of dance as entertainment might be said to begin because the performers had consciously to discipline themselves and their movements to communicate the meaning of the ritual and fili the now limited dance space. Thus a definite technique of dance started to develop. Although this bore little or no relationship to classical dance technique it had this in common with it: in both the movements had to be so displayed that the audience saw them to the best advantage.

The dramatis personae and themes of classical ballet began to emerge as the tragodia—or goat-song—took shape under a priest who was also a poet. As he sang the tale of his god, so his acolytes danced and mimed that god's deeds, whilst the audience at the climax or end of the recital, would join in the ritual by performing the appropriately expressive dance of rejoicing, sorrow, Bacchic frenzy and the like.
This form of ritual changed character when, inspired by the poems of Homer, a secular form of dramatic entertainment appeared in which bard and dancer-mime expressed through chant and gesture the deeds of some great hero, his relationship to the gods and the fates determining his life and death; Thespis, the father of Greek tragedy, introduced actors, thereby allowing dialogue in which the players could respond and exchange comment, and thus enlarged the...