Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)

Six months after Catherine's de Medici's death her son Henry III was assassinated. Her fourth son was killed in battle. At the time he was wooing Elizabeth, Queen of England. The song "The frog who would a-wooing go" was about him. There followed a period of confusion. The next big influence in dance was Louis XIV. He had studied dance since the age of seven. He was a famous and gifted dancer. When he was fifteen, he was the "Sun King Who Chased the Night Away". From that time on he was always referred to as the Sun King in all the Courts.

The main attractions of the ballet de cour were its sumptuous costumes and its intriguing geometrical patterns. All the ballets depended on the court dances such as pavan, galliard, jigs and minuets. Stage dancing and social dancing were drawing farther apart. Some say that this came about because Louis XIV, once an excellent performer in ballet de cour, grew too fat to dance. Not wishing to offend their monarch, his courtiers also retired. But who was to dance? In 1661 Louis established the ACADEMIE ROYALE de DANSE, and shortly thereafter a school for professional dancers became a part of it. Soon the nobles restricted themselves to social dancing; ballet moved out of the court ballroom and into the theatre.

ACADEMIE ROYALE DE LA MUSIQUE ET DE LA DANSE, was established in Paris in 1661 in a section of the Louvre. It included 13 professional dance masters, among them Prevot, Renaud and Raynal. The training of dance and the production of ballets were the function of the Academie. The first roster included twelve male dancers and ten female dancers, a composer of ballet, a master of the dancing room, a designer, and a master tailor.

Jean Baptiste Lully was put in charge of the ACADEMIE in 1672. Lully (1632-1687) a musician, composer and dancer, was born in Arno, Italy. He joined the court of Louis XIV as a violinist and dancer. He believed a ballet should be an integrated whole, rather than a string of disconnected dances. He danced with Louis XIV and Pierre Beauchamp and was responsible for the first ballet starring a female, Mlle. Lafontaine.

In 1681 Lully produced Le Triomph de l'Amour, Beauchamp choreographed the ballet and danced the girl,s part opposite King Louis XIV. The same year the ballet was performed professionally. Lully created a first by having a female dance the girl's part. This was Mlle. Lafontaine (1665-1738), the first Premiere danseuse of the Paris Opera. Very little is written about her only that Lully did many ballets for her. She was much admired for the elegance of her style. When she retired she became a nun.

(First published January 1991)

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