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This website is intended to make available some of my (Edmund Fairfax’s) ongoing research into the technique of eighteenth-century ballet. Dance history, especially the history of early ballet, is still virgin territory, as it were, and misconceptions abound in popular and even more scholarly discussions. A work in progress (with more material to be added piecemeal), this site is meant to dispel at least a few of these misconceptions before the publication of my findings in a scholarly study to be entitled The Technique of Eighteenth-Century Ballet. This study is the second part of a major research project that began with my earlier The Styles of Eighteenth-Century Ballet (2003, Scarecrow Press). A further volume to be entitled The Making of Eighteenth-Century Ballet is also planned, as well as critical studies of those pantomime ballets by Maximilien Gardel for which a score and libretto are extant.

The chapters of The Technique of Eighteenth-Century Ballet are as follows: Introduction; 1 Sources; 2 Beauchamps Dance Notation; 3 Styles of Dance; 4 Historical Developments; 5 Carriage of the Body and Positions of the Feet; 6 Movements of the Legs; 7 Positions and Movements of the Torso; 8 Positions and Movements of the Arms; 9 Positions and Movements of the Head; 10 The Serious Style; 11 The Half-Serious Style; 12 Introduction to the Steps; 13 Marchés; 14 Coupés; 15 Balancés; 16 Bourrées; 17 Pas de Menuet; 18 Pas de Courante; 19 Temps; 20 Pas de Marcel; 21 Jetés; 22 Glissades; 23 Assemblés; 24 Pas de Gaillarde and Pas Tombés; 25 Chassés; 26 Contretemps; 27 Pas de Rigaudon; 28 Pas Sautés; 29 Sissonnes; 30 Entrechats and Cabrioles; 31 Tours de Jambe Sautés; 32 Pas Tournés; 33 The Comic and Grotesque Styles; 34 Folk, Regional, And National Dance; 35 Attitudes; 36 Entrances and Exits; 37 Acrobatic Tricks; 38 Dance Training; 39 Costume; Appendices.

Through the “technique” tab in the menu-bar above, one can access a handful of excerpts from my study. To date, I have posted sections dealing with some of the general (problematic) issues in reconstructing the theatrical dance of the eighteenth century (“Preliminary Considerations”); as well as some sections dealing with specific aspects of the dance technique: the turnout of the legs, la statue, the manner of landing from jumps (retombé tendu & retombé plié), the balancement or sway, fifth position of the arms, spotting in pirouetting steps, and the pas de rigaudon; and finally a few sections dealing with some issues related to theatrical performance: suitable musical tempi, entrances, and dance footwear.

Ultimately, this site will become a visual library of eighteenth-century theatrical dance positions, movements, and poses intended to complement the aforementioned study, i.e., an extensive collection of stills and video clips showing computer-generated 3D animations, reconstructing the vocabulary of eighteenth-century ballet based on my research (cf. the CG stills below). Indeed, one of the major hurdles in reconstructing a lost dance tradition is attempting to describe it in words and thereby have it understood, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and a moving picture worth ten thousand.

A reconstruction of the comic-grotesque saut genou.

Reconstruction of the comic-grotesque changement de pieds.

A reconstruction of fifth position of the arms at the height of the shoulder, used to show opposition in the half-serious style. The inset is an notational example of the position, showing here “the right arm open and the left completely closed” (Feuillet (1700: 97), but with false opposition, presumably an engraving error.

I also periodically publish blog-posts which present (hopefully) interesting tidbits from the history of early ballet. (See “blog” above in the menu-bar.) Those interested in receiving notification of postings can click the “follow” bottom at the bottom of the page.