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. The modern construct called “Baroque dance” in particular, which supposedly extended into at least the first couple of decades of the eighteenth century, is hugely problematical, and a number of its features are demonstrably wrong or very dubious.
The material presented here then is intended 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, available here). 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 first of which is Ninette à la cour (click here for further info).
A few excerpts from The Technique of Eighteenth-Century Ballet adapted for this website are presented here to give a sense of the contents (click on listed items to access):
- landing from jumps (retombé tendu & retombé plié)
- fifth position of the arms
- la statue
- pas de rigaudon
I periodically publish blog-posts on various features from the history of early ballet (click on listed items to access). Those interested in receiving notification of postings can use the “follow” bottom at the bottom of the page.
- The High Leg of Eighteenth-Century Ballet
- The Bent-Legged Jumps of Eighteenth-Century Ballet
- Eighteenth-Century Dance Shoes
- The Arabesque of Eighteenth-Century Ballet
- Eighteenth-Century Pointe
- Dancing to One’s Own Beat in Early Ballet
- The Eighteenth-Century Dance Mask
- When Ballet Laughed: Comic-Grotesque Steps of Early Ballet
- Was the “Wrapped” Position Used in the Eighteenth Century?
- The Boned Arm of Eighteenth-Century Ballet
Sketches of 18C Pantomime Ballets
I have also created a few webpages which outline the plots of some eighteenth-century pantomime ballets, or parts thereof, presented together with their music, and choreography if extant (click on listed items to access):
- Le peintre amoureux de son modèle (in Ferrère, c1760s)
- La chercheuse d’esprit (Gardel, 1777)
- Ninette à la cour (Gardel, 1777)
- Le déserteur (Dauberval, 1784)
- Le may (Dehesse 1751)
Links to a number of videoed performances of dances based on my research can be found on the “videos” page (see menu above).
Below, a link to a conference presentation on the comic style: