The ballets of Louis XIV: a list

Here is a list of the ballets performed at the court of Louis XIV between 1648 and 1669.

1648       Ballet du Dérèglement des passions

1651       Ballet de Cassandre

1651       Ballet des festes de Bacchus

1653       Ballet de la nuit

1654       Ballet des proverbes

1654       Les Nopces de Pélée et de Thétis

1654       Ballet du Temps

1655       Ballet des Plaisirs

1655       Ballet des Bienvenus

1656       Ballet de Psyché

1656       Ballet de la Galanterie du Temps

1657       Ballet de l’Amour malade

1657       Ballet des plaisirs troublés

1658       Ballet de l’Alcidiane

1659       Ballet de la raillerie

1660       Ballet de Xerxes

1661       Ballet royal de l’impatience

1661       Ballet des saisons

1662       Ballet d’Hercule amoureux

1663       Ballet des arts

1663       Les Noces de village

1664       Ballet des amours déguisés

1665       Ballet de la naissance de Vénus

1666       Le Triomphe de Bacchus

1666       Ballet des muses

1668       Le Carnaval

1669       Ballet de Flore

Not all of these were ballets de cour. Some were smaller-scale and more intimate mascarades. There were other ballets over this period, notably the comédies-ballets of Lully and Molière, which mostly involved professional dancers. The ballets de cour were danced, first and foremost, by the king and his courtiers. Why were these ballets performed? What were they about? Who danced in them? How much did they influence later dance works, not only in France but throughout Europe? I can see that I will have to do some research into recent writing on the subject if I am to find out.

Nicolas de Larmessin. Louis XIV. 1661. © Trustees of the British Museum

Nicolas de Larmessin. Louis XIV. 1661. © Trustees of the British Museum

My interest is also in how they affected dancing on the London stage. Most of these ballets de cour were performed while England was suffering a civil war and then living under a puritan commonwealth government. The English tradition of the masque was interrupted by these calamitous events and never fully revived following the restoration of Charles II in 1660. However, French dancing was to be profoundly influential in London after 1660, both at court and in the playhouses. Before I can pursue that topic, I need to look more closely at the French ballets de cour and their performers.

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3 thoughts on “The ballets of Louis XIV: a list

  1. kethuprofumo

    Dear Moira,
    I’m grateful to You for magnificent information about the dance history.
    Here’re some hints which, likely, might be useful for Your research:

    1. Why were these ballets performed?
    Any event at the French Court had a reason. So, check the calendar of the proper year. It would allow You to comprehend the reason of the ballet. Mostly, ballets were arranged either due to Religious feasts or to celebrate an important policital event or something of importance from the Royal Family’s life.
    2.What were they about?
    A typical ballet of Louis XIV’s time is a kind of allegory, plenty of mythology. However, it’s only on the face. The plot itself is strongly relevant to a celebrated event. I will send you the detailed information if I find it during my own researches.
    3.Who danced in them?
    I can’t answer for all, only to give some hints concerning the importance of the Court’s participating. By that moment the French Court’s life had already been a kind of a stage and an event like a ballet allowed to establish, to change and to cancel the vivid relationship between the King and the courtiers. It might be considered that while dancing Louis XIV perfected his future policy with his milieu. In France the King and his Court were independent from each other too long. It was the source of the Court intrigues. Cardinal de Richelieu managed to have reproved restless courtiers. So, we might consider as a big victory of the State the fact that French courtiers obbeyed and danced together with the King.

    Best regards,

    Maria

    Reply
    1. moiragoff Post author

      Dear Maria,
      Thank you very much for your additional information. There is a great deal more work to be done on the ballets de cour of Louis XIV. I cannot find any detailed full-length general study more recent than that of Marie-Francoise Christout published in 1967. My interest in these ballets really relates to the way in which their characters and themes are used later and elsewhere and the opportunities they provided for the rapid development of dance style and technique. The focus of my research is really dancing on the London stage in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, hence the aspects of the ballet de cour which you noted and I overlooked.
      If you publish on the topic, do please send me a citation so I may follow it up.
      Best wishes
      Moira

      Reply
      1. kethuprofumo

        Dear Morie,
        you’re always welcome. I will do my best to research something appropriate to the themes you’re interested in. In general, if you need something regarding Louis XIV’s time, I would be happy to assist you. By the way, in one number of ‘Mercure Galant’, a weekly of the XVIIth century, I came across a curious article concerning the history of dance. What is most precious in it is the perception people of that time had to this kind of art. It might be irrelevant to your straight research, but I could translate and send it to you.

        Best wishes,

        Maria

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