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Written by: Zeth

Professional dancers began to appear in 1630 and in 1672, Jean Baptiste Lully formed a dance academy within the Acedemie Royale de Musique, better known today as the Ballet of the Paris Opera.

Lullys seriousness towards the study of dance led to the development of professional dancers, opposed to courtiers who could dance.

Jean G Noverre (1727) introduced choreography based on character and situation and was dissatisfied with the dress of dancers. He held the belief that they should not wear masks. Maximillien Gardel was the first to appear without his mask but the corps de ballet continued to use masks in grotesque roles until the end of the eighteenth century.

During this time, professional dancers became an integral part of court life and courtiers were trained correctly from an early age. The fashion for court entertainment in the French style spread across Europe. Professional dancers influenced technique and moved dance towards and expressive art form, accessible to a broad audience.

The developing mercantile class meant the public existed with capital to spend on leisure pursuits, such as attending theatre and as the art form advanced with more dance and less speech, it became more attractive to paying audiences.

As professional dancers were evolving movement techniques appropriate to new audiences, choreographers were adapting their work to new spaces. In new theatres, the audiences perspective was radically changed. Instead of performing in a space surrounded by an audience, performances were now viewed in the frontal plane.

The use of soft, flat shoes by professional dancers, allowed them to explore a range of movement different from that used in court dances. Jumps replace the small springing steps and elevation became more and more important.

Lully died in 1687, as a result of a self inflicted injury he received by accidentally stabbing his foot with his time marking stick during a performance of Te Deum (a Latin hymn of thanksgiving to God). The wound festered and the foot became gangrenous and Lully died of blood poisoning.

Elizabeth Olivier


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