Ballet: Dear King Louis XIV

Ballet: Dear King Louis XIV

Your Majesty, I write this letter to recommend you for the role that you played alongside the Italian Renaissance courts to start and develop ballet dance. The women and noblemen of your era used ballet dance for lash celebrations and to create an elaborate show. I also want to recognize the dancing masters who, throughout the 15th and the 16th century, educated the noble families about the ballet steps while the court engaged in ballet performances. The first ballet was performed in 1581. During the 16th century, one notable figure in the development of this dance was Catherine De Medici, wife to France’s King Henry II. However, this did not stop her from becoming an arts’ patron who funded the French court ballet. Through her festivals, she encouraged the development of Ballet de Cour. It was a program that involved decor, song, dance, poetry, music, and costume (Rinehart 65–8).  Your Majesty, it is now more than a century, and you remain a notable figure that played a significant part in not only popularizing ballet but also standardizing its art form. Moreover, you emerged as a passionate dancer who performed numerous roles (Royal Opera House). Your affection for ballet nurtured its elevation from an activity that amateurs could use to pass the time to one that needed professional training.

The court offered the best context for the ballet performance since it comprised dance, music, and declamation. Mythology, music, poetry, and literature influenced the subject matter of the ballet (Izzo). Only men performed the ballet since society required them to be proficient in dancing, arts, language, and fencing. Such a trend lasted hundreds of years before the first woman was allowed to perform a ballet. However, such a trend has since changed. The Ballet de Cour presented attractions such as intriguing geometric patterns and opulent costumes, which often lack in modern ballet (Rinehart 69-71). Then again, modern classical ballet dancers recognize Ballet de Cour’s elegant presentation and the dancers’ erect posture.

Your Majesty, you made considerable contributions to the development of classical ballet. Given that you appointed your tutor who you trained with every day for two decades, it confirms your dedication to ballet. Indeed, you created a significant difference between social dancing and stage dancing. Your establishment of the first dance school became the foundation for romantic and modern ballet. You also allowed perfection for the art of dance.  Talented women started to perform ballet in the 18th century (Rinehart 72-5). They proved to be dramatic and expressive performers who integrated dance styles, costumes, and music in their ballets. With the inclusion of women, there was a need to be innovative to meet the expectations of the audience while maintaining the purity of the ballet art form (Royal Opera House).

With the increasing popularity of ballet, dance schools and academies opened. Given this development, the performance of ballet changed its setting, moving from the courts to the stage. During this time, some of the opera performances integrated ballet elements, which eventually led to a long-standing tradition of opera-ballet. However, some people such as the ballet master, Noverre Georges, rejected the artifice of opera-ballet. He viewed that ballet can stand as an art form on its own. Noverre also suggested that ballet should comprise dramatic, expressive movements, which should express the association between characters (Rinehart 76-7).  In effect, he created a dramatic ballet style that reveals a narrative. Eventually, Noverre’s ideas became the precursor for the 19th-century narrative ballets. Early classical ballets, including La Sylphide, were created because of and throughout the Romantic Movement of the 19th century. The Romanic Movement was influential in art, ballet, and music. It focused on the supernatural works of magic and spirits while portraying women as fragile and passive. These themes are known as romantic ballets. Ballet dance included dancing on the toe tips commonly referred to as pointe work (Izzo). Later, it became a norm for the ballerina.

The second half of the 19th century saw a rise in ballet popularity. Accordingly, composers and choreographers also advanced in their roles. Many classical ballets emerged in their grandest form. Mainly, such classical dances displayed traditional dancing methods such as high tensions, turn out, pointe work, and precision of movement to the fullest. They developed complex sequences, which show off demanding turns, leaps, and steps. Later, romantic tutu and classical tutu emerged (Rinehart 78-7).

Unlike your era, your Majesty, ballet during the 20th and 21st century experienced sudden changes. Several choreographers, ballet masters, and dancers started to experiment with costume and movement. They intended to move past the confines of the story and form of classical ballet. Some have introduced neo-classical ballet. These people have proven to be innovators of modern plotless ballet. Given that modern ballet lacks no definite narrative line, it intends to utilize movement to portray its music, as well as illuminate human effort and emotion. Such a  contemporary dance has become multifaceted, whereby modern choreographic innovations, traditional narratives, and classical forms intertwine to generate the appeal of contemporary ballet (Thomas 2-4). Choreographers will continue to develop varied styles and types of ballet while offering a diverse range of theatre experiences unmatched by your era.

Your majesty, I am sure you will not appreciate the changes that have occurred in ballet, especially in the 21st century. Owing to the fast rate of transformation of performing artists, particularly due to the forces that transform daily lives in modern societies, ballet has become a business. Consequently, dancers and artists have shifted their attention to utilize the opportunities and possibilities of screening. Because of this, you may conclude that ballet has lost its art form. Another element of modern ballet is that it appears to be stuck on heterosexual dynamics, as well as on its dependence or expressive association to music. Many ballets now try to embrace popular dance and pop culture. However, one aspect that has remained constant over the years is that many people are passionate about ballet. For some, it acts as a symbol of national identity (Thomas 5-6). Ultimately, this form of dance will continue to evolve and take different directions. In places where ballet is a tradition, it remains as an art form. In such cases, many choreographers, both modern and classical ones work with ballet dancers better compared to the period before the 20th century.

As an exceptional art form, I view that ballet, whether classical or modern will not only adapt but also absorb any cultural influences it meets. Over the years, ballet has incorporated influences from every form of music, dance, song, costume, and poetry, yet it has not lost its identity or language. No person can deny that technology and media have presented a considerable influence on ballet giving it a whole new and dissimilar exposure. Since people have found new ways to entertain themselves, it poses a new question on whether such a dance form can survive the future. Your Majesty, you can agree that ballet has reached a new phase, and people are often excited about experiencing original works that make them feel alive and able to absorb the present spirits. I strongly consider that ballet will continue to offer the possibilities for creation and sustain its relevance in modern times (Thomas 9-11). Like a language that many people speak, ballet will continue to transform.



Works Cited

Royal Opera House. “Ballet Evolved: How Ballet Class Has Changed over the Centuries.” YouTube, YouTube, 17 Feb. 2016,

Izzo, Daniel. “History of Ballet.” YouTube, YouTube, 26 Jan. 2008,

Rinehart, Adam. “French Society Abroad: The Popularization of French Dance throughout Europe, 1600-1750.” Musical Offerings, vol. 8, no. 2, 2017, pp. 65–79., doi:10.15385/jmo.2017.8.2.3.

Thomas, Helen. Dance, Modernity, and Culture: Explorations in the Sociology of Dance. Routledge, 2001. 2-10.