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

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.