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Luis BARRUETO is a journalist from Guatemala, currently working in trade policy at the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA). Studied business and finance journalism at Aarhus University in Denmark and City University London.
Holly Fry and Tracy Wilson run Stuff You Missed in History Class, a well-researched podcast on things your school professors might have overlooked or completely failed to take into account. In this "History of Ballet", they delve into the topic in ways that include a deep dive into the history of Europe—and France in particular—and the development of and the ways that court performers started showing their audiences how to dance.
Ballet's Earliest Origins
At first, "ballets" were small performances that took place in the middle of social events, in which people displayed their dance skills alongside other forms of entertainment.
For example, 1881's Queen's Comic Ballet was the first ballet recorded in its entirety in history, and it included other theatric and poetry performances. Inspired in the story of Circe, from Homer's Odyssey, it was a very expensive act done with auspices of Henry III's mother, Catherine de Medici.
Fry and Wilson explain how these initial displays evolved.
The timeline includes the development of ballets de cour—court dances—which slowly emerged from the increasing sophistication of regular dance steps and routines.
Entertainment for the French Crowds of the 15th Century
Under the reign of Louis XIII, ballets de cour became all the rage, involving an ever increasing number of people and becoming more raucous. It was only during the onset of Louis XIV's reign that ballet became a "staged" performance in which artists and the audience were separated.
Then came comedy ballets, in which such as those pioneered by Molière, and in which spoken plays are combined with music and dance. This was about the time in which the "classical" steps of ballet started developing.
Don't miss the second part of the series, where the hosts take off at the time in which the Academie Royale de Musique was founded, and how the prestige and high culture associated with it became one of ballet's distinctive marks.