Jean Baptiste Lande

When writing about ballet you become aware of the overlapping history of the development of dance. The French, the Italian and the Russian interchange of dancers is the basis of our ballet and influences what we study and what we see. In 1789 the French people overthrew their feudal government, and in the decades of confusion that followed, France was no longer the leader of European dance. Many of the dancers fled to other countries to teach and dance. Ballet developed in a new direction chiefly in Italy. Technique improved and allegro became very popular. This influence came from the Italian folk dancing.

Jean Baptiste Lande was a French dancer and maitre de ballet. A Maitre de ballet, or Ballet Master, until recently was a person attached to a company of dancers, to a theater or in the 18th century and before, to the royal court, who composed arranged and produced dances and ballets. Lande went to Russia as a dancer. he stayed and was made ballet teacher for poor children, and in 1735 pleased Empress Anne with an excellent display of his students' dancing. In 1738 his school became the Imperial Theatre School in St. Petersburg. The school was situated in the Winter Palace with 12 boys and 12 girls, all children of the servants. Rinaldo Fusano, a comic dancer from Italy, succeeded Lande. A Frenchman founded the Russian school of ballet, followed by an Italian.

The Russian Ballet continued to develop with people like Charles Le Pico, who was a favorite pupil of Noverre and chief dancer at the Paris Opera. In 1786 he went to St. Petersburg to be Ballet Master with his wife as Prima Ballerina. They remained there for twelve years. He was responsible for the Russian edition of Noverre's Letters.

Charles Louis Didelot, another French dancer, was a student of Noverre, Dauberval and Vestris at the Paris Opera. When he was at the King's Theatre in London he introduced flying the dancer by use of wires, and is credited with creating flesh - colored tights for the women dancers. From 1801 -1811 he was the Maitre de Ballet at the Imperial School in St. Petersburg. He reformed the teaching in the Schools, and is considered one of the most important influences in Russian ballet. His work overshadowed the Romantic Ballet. Jules Perrot from France went to Russia in 1848. He was already considered a great dancer. In 1851 he was promoted to Maitre de Ballet. While he was there he produced eight ballets and revived many of his old ones.

(First published August 1988)