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  • Can you imagine a party where every movement, from the slightest gesture to walking across the room, and every visual detail, from furniture to hemline length, were governed by a complex system of rules and procedures?

  • For centuries, such rituals were commonplace for European nobility.

  • And while they've gone out of fashion, we recognize the components under a familiar label: ballet.

  • Ballet, from Italian "balletto," or little dance, originated in Renaissance Italy as a combination of social dance and choreographed display at aristocratic gatherings.

  • In many aspects, it was a way of controlling people in court with acceptable forms of behavior, such as the manner in which people stepped, bowed, or took someone's hand.

  • It also involved rules governing everything from attire to where one could walk or sit in relation to the King.

  • Over time, the study of ballet became a central element of court life, and proper grasp of the etiquette could make or break one's success as a courtier.

  • Many of these court gestures can still be seen in modern ballet techniques.

  • Ballet was brought to France in the 16th century by Catherine de' Medici, the Italian wife of King Henry II.

  • As celebrations became more lavish, so did the dance, with dancing masters teaching elaborate steps to young nobles and story elements providing a unifying theme.

  • The focus shifted from participation to performance, and the form acquired more theatrical trappings, such as professionally designed sets and a slightly raised platform or stage with curtains and wings.

  • But it was in the 17th century court of Louis XIV that ballet was refined into the art we know today.

  • Louis himself had been trained in ballet from childhood.

  • His early role as the sun god Apollo at age fifteen cemented the central role ballet would play during his reign.

  • It also earned him the title of Sun King, with his splendid golden costume and choreography that promoted the idea of the king as a divinely ordained ruler.

  • Louis would go on to perform 80 roles in 40 major ballets, either as a majestic lead, or sometimes playing minor or comedic parts before emerging in the lead role at the end.

  • He trained daily in ballet, as well as fencing and riding, and through his example, dancing became an essential skill for all gentlemen of the era.

  • But Louis XIV's main contribution to ballet was not as a performer.

  • His founding of the Royal Academy of Dance in 1661 shifted control of ballet from local guilds to the royal court.

  • As director, he appointed his personal ballet master and frequent performance partner Pierre Beauchamp, who codified the five main positions of the body still used today.

  • Through his collaborations with Jean-Baptiste Lully, the director of the Royal Music Academy, and famed playwright Molière, Beauchamp helped establish ballet as a grand spectacle.

  • And in 1669, a separate ballet academy was founded.

  • The Paris Opera Ballet survives today as the oldest ballet company in the world.

  • Ballet moved away from the royal court to the theater and survived the democratic revolutions and reforms that followed over the next century.

  • With the advent of the romantic movement, fantasy and folklore themes became common motifs.

  • And though the influence of ballet in France would decline, other countries, such as Russia, would play a major role in its further development.

  • Fortunately, today most of us don't have to learn a complicated set of steps just to socialize at a wedding.

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  • Instead, we can go to the theater to see professionals who spend their lives training rigorously to perform feats that would have been unimaginable in Louis XIV's day.

Can you imagine a party where every movement, from the slightest gesture to walking across the room, and every visual detail, from furniture to hemline length, were governed by a complex system of rules and procedures?

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B1 US TED-Ed ballet louis court xiv royal

【TED-Ed】The origins of ballet

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    swtso posted on 2019/03/03
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