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Italy's role vis a vis the French?


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That Louis XIV moved the art form from the court to the public stage when he became too old to dance himself is one of those things we all expected to learn about the founding of ballet... but it seems vague to me. When did the Operas in Italy begin to be on public stages? Did they precede the Paris Opera? Did they follow? Is the language of ballet mostly French for lingua franca reasons or because France was such a powerful country at the time? And if staged dance in Italy preceded the Paris Opera... what did they call it? It seems so many of the great ballet artists and masters prior the 20th century were Italian; where did they come from? France? Somehow I don't follow.

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Amy, they're all good questions, but an answer would literally be a book! Carol Lee's "A History of Ballet in Western Culture" addresses all of these.

A short answer is that ballet started to move from social dancing to performance (at court) in Italy, was developed in France. The language of ballet iis French, as the language of music is Italian, because when the professionals started to take over in France they began naming steps, etc., in their own language. Opera and ballet began as one art form and -- meaning the court entertainments combined dancing with singing and declaimed poetry -- gradually developed separately. The Italian teachers and theorists kept training dancers, and there was ballet in Italy, but opera was more popular. Paris became the arts capital of Europe and dancers went there to become polished, and also to dance. Italy supplied many dancers to Paris, as well as to Russia, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

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