Baroque Dance in France


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Much more than simple sequences of steps punctuated by the joyful sound of the harpsichord, the baroque dance is in the XNUMXth century a whole art of living, which delights the nobles as much as it rocks political ambitions. Under Louis XIV, what was then called the “Belle Danse” had nothing to do with mere entertainment. It conceals fundamental social and strategic issues.

Image credit: Edith LALONGER - Baroque Dance

Baroque Dance under Louis XIV Between refined entertainment and political strategy

Louis XIV, like any gentleman of the time, received a refined education in which baroque dance naturally had pride of place. Still a child, young Louis assiduously followed the teachings of his dancing master Pierre Beauchamps. In 1650, barely 12 years old, he appeared in public, during a performance by Cassandre's Ballet.1MOLLER Nathalie, “What is baroque dance? », France Musique, published on Friday, October 19, 2018 at 17:54 p.m., URL: What is Baroque Dance? ( Three years later, for his fifteenth birthday, he appeared costumed as Apollo in the Royal Night Ballet. The future monarch looks like the Sun King. His costume shines with a thousand lights. The performance impresses the minds of the powerful in the kingdom.

Under Louis XIV, baroque dance was as much about entertainment and a ceremonial strategy as it was about political ambition. The political vision of the young Louis XIV was partly shaped by a traumatic episode: that of the Fronde (1648-1653). She forced him, when he was still only a young child, to leave the Louvre Palace with his mother Anne of Austria to escape the fury of the Parisians, revolted and ready to break into the Louvre Palace. In the middle of the night, they flee the royal residence to take refuge in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

This event leads all his life during the Sun King to seek to keep the nobility under his control. The dance, which he loved so much, then appeared to him as the dual means of keeping the court occupied, and of making his kingdom shine beyond the borders, in a spirit that today would be described as propaganda. A real political tool, the choreographic arts took on a hitherto unequaled importance under the reign of Louis XIV. To please the king, the whole court was busy learning and gracefully reproducing the airs of gavotte, sarabande and minuet.

Louis XIV's project culminated in 1661, when he founded the Royal Academy of Dance. It was also at the sovereign's request that Raoul-Auger Feuillet worked ardently on the development of a system for writing choreography. His efforts resulted in the publication of a treatise in 1700: Choreography or the Art of Describing Dance by Characters, Figures and Demonstrative Signs2LES FESTES THALIE, “Renaissance and Baroque music: dance movements”, URL: 3 MOLLER Nathalie, Op. Cit., 2018.

baroque dancein practice

Baroque dance is thus highly codified. Governed by theoretical treatises, taught by often severe tutors, baroque dance is also constrained by the costumes of the time.

There is a special way of using the arms since the shoulders are not free in court costumes. Beatrice Massin
3MOLLER Nathalie, Op. Cit., 2018

The baroque dancer thus always keeps his arms oriented towards the pelvis, while making the continuous effort to hold his bust and stretch it upwards. The footwork is available on the basis of simple walking, on which is superimposed no bourrée, chassés, entrechats and jumps, all of which are premises of classical dance.4CENTER NATIONAL DE LA DANSE, “Baroque conference, from ritual to pleasure”, with Béatrice Massin, 2004, Pantin, updated in March 2010, URL: Baroque conference | Numeridanse TV Under the influence of the Royal Academy of Dance, which later became the Ballet de l'Opéra national de Paris, Baroque dancers perfected their skills until they became professional dancers.

In an opposite movement, today, some professionals seek to revive Baroque dance. Béatrice Massin, with her company Indes Galantes, or Edith Lalonger, professor at the Center de Danse du Marais, still present today a revisited Baroque repertoire.

To venture even further...

Baroque dance lessons :
MARAIS DANCE CENTER, “Professor, Edith Lalonger”, URL:



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