French Cultural Music and Dance – History of Ballet
French are by nature very fond of music and dance, and are credited to invent several of world-famous dances. France is known to invent Ballet dances way back in 1581.
France has long been associated with the arts, as the country has produced many famous artists and composers. As such, the French influence on dances such as ballet has been felt around the world. French are by nature very fond of music and dance, and are credited to invent several of world-famous dances. France is known to invent Ballet dances way back in 1581.
France has a very rich and varied dance tradition and almost every region of France has its own distinct forms of music and dances. Traditional folk dances and music are well preserved in several relatively isolated regions in the south France. France has been the cultural centre of Europe since Medieval times. Under the reign of Louis XIV, ballet flourished, and the “French” style of ballet was born. Dancing was a popular pastime for the court, therefore ballroom and square dances also became popular during this period. As time went on, dance moved out of the court and into music halls and venues where the audience would often participate, such as with the bal-musette or the can-can.
The gavotte was a popular dance in the Baroque era, so named as it originated in the Pays de Gap region amongst the Gavot people. It consisted of a step pattern where feet were crossed twice after each step, and then a hop would follow. It was of moderate tempo, and there would often be someone leading the dance. This dance was popular in the court of Louis XIV, and typical instruments were violins and bagpipes. The gavotte compositions by Bach are possibly the best known. The Rigaudon is another lively dance, performed by couples. Also fashionable in the court during the Baroque period, it remained popular in music halls until the 19th century. The courante is a lively dance performed in both France and Italy. The name literally means “running” due to its fast steps.
History of Ballet
Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century. Noblemen and women were treated to lavish events, especially wedding celebrations, where dancing and music created an elaborate spectacle. Dancing masters taught the steps to the nobility, and the court participated in the performances. In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici, an Italian noblewoman, wife of King Henry II of France and a great patron of the arts, began to fund ballet in the French court. Her elaborate festivals encouraged the growth of ballet de cour, a program that included dance, decor, costume, song, music and poetry. A century later, King Louis XIV helped to popularize and standardize the art form. A passionate dancer, he danced many roles himself, including that of the Sun King in Ballet de la nuit. His love of ballet fostered its elevation from a pasttime for amateurs to an endeavor requiring professional training.
In France, there are 4,300 institutions that specialize in music. France is known for developing ballet. The first ballet in France was performed in 1518 and was called the Ballet Comique de la Reine. This famous ballet was performed in the court of Catherine de Medicis. This ballet fused various elements like music, dance, plot and design.
Another major development in the history of dance took place in 1661, when Louis XVI established the Academie Royale de Danse. The company is now known as the Paris Opera Ballet. This company dominated European theatrical dance during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Pierre Beauchamp, the company’s first director, was the one who codified the five basic ballet positions. Other experts, who contributed in developing ballet were as Gaétan Vestris, Auguste Vestris, Marie Camargo and Marie Salle.
In, Russian impresario Sergey Diaghilev founded the avante-garde Ballets Russes in Paris. Other dance entertainments were also developed in France. Cancan was a dance form that became very popular in Paris in the 19th century. It’s a lively dance that is performed onstageby four women. Jean-Georges Noverre introduced a major reform in ballet production. Oriental Dance is another famous dance form of France.
If you’ve some basic knowledge of French art and music, you must be familiar with some of the basic dance forms, such as Waltz, Polka, Mazurka, Marche, Scottish, Rondeau and the Bourree. Carols and Baroque dances are other popular traditional dances in France.Carols are simple chain dances in which a linked line of dancers moved forwards, walking, running or skipping to their own singing. Other popular traditional dance types in France include Canarie, Forlane, Gavotte, Gigue, Menuet and Sarabande.