A history of Dancing

A history of dancing. By Reginald St. Johnston


CHAPTER VII. THE BALLET: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT.



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"To brisk notes in cadence beating Dance their many twinkling feet."

Gray.--" Progress of Poesy," Part II., 3, 6, 10.

PERHAPS the nearest approach to perfection which dancing as an art ever reached, was to be found in the ballet.
ひょっとしたら芸術としてのダンシングがこれまでに到達した

The only detracting circumstance being that the dancing in the ballet was of a mechanical rather than an inspired nature.

So that, while from a purely artistic point of view one can hardly regret the decadence of this form of dancing, yet when one remembers the great impetus it gave to dancing in general, and that without it our stage dancing of to-day might never have existed, we cannot help feeling grateful for the important part it has played in the history of dancing.

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Giving, as it did, such splendid chances for acting, for expression, and for minute and intricate movement, it naturally came to be regarded as the climax of all forms of dancing; yet in itself it was unreal and artificial, and had none of the artistic effects, the ideas of waves, clouds, and swaying trees, which the long skirted dancers of to-day, in their nearer approach to the old Greek style, are able to give.

It has been pleaded for the ballet that it was eloquent, dramatic, full of gesture; so it was, but so are also such well-known plays as "L'Enfant Prodigue," and moreover, in these the art of acting is confined to its proper sphere, the drama. It is no plea, I think, for the ballet, as a form of dancing, that its acting was so superb.

The ballet has a long and ancient history of its own, extending tight away from Roman times, through mediæval Italy and France, eighteenth and nineteenth century England, up to the present day; though in speaking now we generally carry in our minds a picture of the ballet of the late Georgian and early Victorian times, when it was at its zenith.

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But the ballet, if we regard it in its real meaning as a dance in rhythmical time by a number of persons who combine gesticulation and acting with their dancing, was undoubtedly performed among the Romans, and in the later Augustan times had arrived at a considerable standard of excellence.
The first ballets given at Rome were simply comedies helped out to a considerable extent by gesture, and similar in nature to the old comedies of the Fabulæ Atellanæ, on which, indeed, they were founded; the only difference being that the ballets had a larger number of performers and included both male and female dancers. Then, in time, the dancing began to take the first place in the performance, the acting being helped out by the Chorus singing Cantica describing the plot and occurrences of the play after the Greek manner.

These ballets became immensely popular, and the chief poets in Rome were called upon to write the songs and words for them, and several librettos by Lucan, written for the ballets about the year 65 A.D., may still be read.

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From the late Roman period there is a long gap till the fifteenth century, when in Italy again appeared the ballet, though of a different and much more artistic nature than the old Roman performances.
Indeed, the Italy of mediæval times may be regarded as its original home; and with that country must always be associated the idea of the ballet as a separate art in itself.
The very name ballet is derived from the late Latin "ballare, through the Italian "balletto"; and our English word ballad, literally "a song for dancing," is drawn from the same source.


The first revivals of the ballet in Italy were without doubt founded on the performances of the old Roman pantomimi, and probably these performances had been carried on among the country towns in a but slightly altered manner through all the interval between the Augustine period and the fifteenth century; but about the latter date move attention began to be paid to dancing in general, and particularly to this form of dramatic dancing. So that, in the year 1489, matters were ripe for a sudden revival

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of popular feeling in favour of the ballet, brought about by a big spectacular performance arranged by one Bergonzio di Botta, in celebration of the marriage of the Duke of Milan, at Tortona.
This was a magnificent affair, and the performance of it was spread over many hours. Five great spectacles were set forth in it, namely, the Siege of Troy, the Judgment of Paris, the Seasons, the Conquests of Alexander, and a Carnival, each of these shows being in five acts, and each act having three, six, nine or twelve entries for dancers; singing and recitation going on the whole time. This was the precursor of many similar ballets in ltaly, some of them fine performances, but none being quite equal to di Botta's.

Soon, however, the best ideas, and some of the best dancers also, of the ballet, were imported into France, then the most civilized country in the world, and from that time France established that reputation for dancing which with the centuries has gone on steadily increasing, and which she has never lost.

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Katherine de Medicis was the first to introduce the ballet into France, originally with the idea of withdrawing the mind of her son, the king, from affairs of state, in the hope that she might get thereby more power into her own hands.
It soon became exceedingly popular with the Court, and performances were given on every possible occasion.
Baltazarini, the ballet master whom Katherine had brought over from Italy, reorganized and introduced a uniformity into the ballet, which now began to run on fixed and regular lines, and from this time the modern history of the ballet may be said to have commenced.

In 1581 a great ballet, the" Ballet Comique de la Reine," was given at the marriage of the Duc de Joyeuse, and this was a noteworthy event, in that a few months later a printed book about it, the first book on the ballet ever written, was published; and in this is described, at some length, the music, dialogue, and plot, illustrated by pictures of the various movements and the dresses.

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Henry IV. of France was a great supporter of the ballet, no less than eighty special performances being produced between the years 1590 and 1610, while Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. were equally zealous in their patronage of it.
Indeed, both of these monarchs danced publicly in the ballet, and so enthusiastic was the latter that he founded an Academy of Dancing, placing Quinault as the Director, and Lully as the chief composer.
A great innovation, the introduction of female dancers, took place in the ballet in 1681; Lully, with the true eye of the artist, foreseeing the far more graceful effect which would be produced by this.
The new scheme was a great success, and from that time the ballet has never had to entirely rely on the heavier and naturally more clumsy dancing of men only. The first ballet, in 1681, in which ladies took part, was one called "Le Triomphe de l'Amour," the music of which was written by Lully; but it was not till some years later that female dancers in any number took part in the performances. In this year also, a book, "Des Ballets Anciens et

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Modernes," was written by a Jesuit, Le Pere Menestrier, and for a long time this book was the great authority on dancing.

Louis XIV. now becoming too stout to dance in person, the ballets for a time went out of favour, and for some thirty years matters were at a standstill with regard to their development. However, in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, two female dancers, Mdlles. Salle and Camargo* sprang into fame and caused a sudden revival of interest in the ballet. Thousands flocked to see them, and Voltaire himself made special mention of them in his writings. Mdlle. Salle paid a triumphant visit to England in 1741, this being the first record we have of any noted danseuse appearing in London.
Camargo was said to be able to do no less than eight entrechats before retouching the ground, undoubtedly a record up till that time, and probably still a record.

About this time, too, Vestris, the great Gætano Vestris, first came upon the scene, and by his methods quite revolutionized the ballet. He followed close in the footsteps of another male dancer, Dupre, but his own fame quite overshadowed that of his forerunner.Signor Vfstris. London Magazine, April, 1781.

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He, in company with Mdlle. Camargo, created a sensation in Paris in the year 1775, by a new ballet, "Leandre et Hero," in which they took the two nameroles; this ballet was a noteworthy performance, and is also especially interesting in that Mdlle. Camargo wore for the first time the short-skirted ballet costume, all previous dancers having worn full-length dresses.

Contemporary with Vestris was another great dancer, Jean Georges Noverre, who was noted for the great wealth of acting and expression he put into his dancing. Up till Noverre's time the ballets had been performed in much the same manner as they were under Katherine de Medicis. Each act had been introduced by fresh dancers, and nearly always by a different style of dancing; while invariably a dialogue explaining the plot had been carried on throughout the whole performance by the Chorus. Songs, also, had been introduced at frequent intervals, and indeed the dancing had always been more or less of secondary importance compared to the acting and singing.

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Noverre changed all this, and produced what has ever since been known as the "ballet d'action," the unravelling of a plot by dancing and gesture pure and simple. With him was revived the true art of pantomime, such as had been made use of by the old Roman mimes when at their best; and from the time of Noverre the new school of dancing, which lasted all through the remaining life of the ballet, may be said to have commenced. Noverre was accustomed to say that genius and a power of acting were essential to a good dancer, and in a book he wrote, "Lettres sur la Dance et les Ballets," he lays much stress on this.

In 1772, a new dancer, Maximilian Gardel, appeared, and under his auspices a further important change took place in the ballet. This was no less than the removal of the masks which all dancers had hitherto been in the habit of wearing. This, a relic of Roman times, had been considered a sine quâ non, to the complete equipment of a dancer, and when Gardel first ventured to appear without one, it was the cause of

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considerable surprise and questioning. He nearly lost his popularity through its disuse, but in time people became more accustomed to it; other dancers copied his example, and in two or three years the masks disappeared altogether.

During the period of the French Directory, and after the retirement of Noverre, there was an inclination to introduce a patriotic note into the "grand ballet," as it was now called, and the theatre was much made use of by the authorities to keep up the national spirit among the populace. Some very fine ballets, notably one named the "Marsellaise," were performed at this time; and though there were no individually great dancers, yet the general standing of the ballet was never more brilliant.

The leadership of the dancing world was next taken up by Vincenzo Galleotti, a dancer who secured much fame in Copenhagen, and after him Bournonville, a pupil of his, became the acknowledged head of the profession. Bournonville was made Director of the Academy at Copenhagen between the years 1830 and 1836, and during
G

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that time he produced many famous ballets, among them being the ballet of "Napoli," at that time considered to be the finest the world had ever seen.

It will be noticed that all the names yet mentioned have been those of foreigners, for we in England have never been able to lay claim to any of the world's dancers, and indeed even the English history of the ballet is but the history of foreign dancers who have appeared in this country. The ballet was practically unknown in England till the appearance of Vestris in 1741; and, though ever since that time the English have always been great patrons and admirers of the ballet, they have never been able to produce any dancers equal to those of the Italian or French schools. The first English ballet we have mention of was one called "The Tavern Bilkers," performed at Drury Lane in 1702. This was a descriptive ballet, but danced, of course, in the old style, with songs and dialogue illustrating the plot. As early as 1667, Dryden uses the word "balette" as an English word, but with the exception of this one in 1702 there

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seem to have been no ballets worthy of the name till about 1740. The earlier italian operas in London were performed without the ballet, and this was one reason why the continent was so much more advanced than England in respect to its dancing; for with the history of the opera is entwined that of the ballet. But with the further development of the opera in England, and the accompanying introduction of the ballet as in the Continental manner, we arrive at a period that stands out by itself as the golden age of the ballet in this country, namely, the first half of the nineteenth century.

Not so very long ago, perhaps--indeed, the latter part of that period is well within the memory of many still living; but the ballet is now a thing of the past, and so sharp is the boundary line dividing the days of the opera, of the early Victorian dandies and all their accompanying environment, from the matter-of-fact people of to-day, that the period seems to have been placed almost in another world. The names of Taglioni, Fanny Elssler, Cerito, are merely

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names to most of us--names of once celebrated people, it is true, but for all that nothing more to our ears than are the places on a map to one who has never travelled; and it is difficult foe us to imagine the magic influence, the magnetic power, which once surrounded them.

Those were the days when the Haymarket, Her Majesty's, or Covent Garden, were but patronized for the ballets that were staged there; and when one who had not witnessed the last success of Taglioni, or had not helped to applaud the new performance of Duvernay, was of no account, and but little better than a barbarian. How they flocked to the opera, and how they crowded the boxes and promenades night after night, these bucks of the D'Orsay period, staring through their quizzing glasses at the newest premiere, or bowing with well-measured grace to some fair leader of society in the opposite box! And, sheltered under the protecting wing of fashion, which, contrary to her usual manner, remained unchanged for some thirty years, the ballet made great advances towards perfection, and at the

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end of Taglioni's reign had become as artistic an affair as mechanical skill could ever hope to make it.

Taglioni! Name to conjure with! Can any of our modern celebrities claim to have created the sensation that was caused whenever the great Taglioni was announced to appear? Her name was upon everyone's lips, songs were composed about her, books and music dedicated to her, while "Taglioni" hats, dresses, overcoats, were common signs in all the shop windows. Many, though fewer every year, are yet able to recall scenes of the nightly thronged houses, when the theatres kept on absorbing more and more eager enthusiasts, till they seemed swollen almost to a bursting point; many still living are able to proudly say they saw Taglioni at her prime; yet now her name is almost forgotten, so complete has been the extinction of the ballet!

Another great danseuse, who, if her skill was not so great, was said to have possessed an even greater personal attraction than Taglioni, was Fanny Elssler. The story of how these two competed for fame on the

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Paris Opera stage, first one gaining the acknowledged supremacy, then the other, is one of the romances in the annals of dancing. And to see Elssler dance the Cachucha! That was the one thing to live for in those days. What a perfect furore it caused, and what storms of applause used to greet her appearance every night[ It was said that Fanny Elssler could do anything with her feet that it was in mortal power to do. Oliver Wendell Holmes' admiration for her is shown in the sentence he puts into the mouth of the "Master," in the "Poet at the Breakfast Table." He says: "I have seen the woman who danced the cap-stone on to Bunker Hill Monument, as Orpheus moved the rocks by music,--the Elssler woman, Fanny Elssler."

But with the retirement of Taglioni and Elssler, both in the year 1845, the ballet, having lost its two most brilliant stars, began to fade into insignificance, and though for nearly thirty years afterwards it still retained its original characteristics, it was never quite the same again. The name of Henriette d'Or stands out among the last

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of the old school of the ballet, but from the time of Taglioni the premieres who could lay any claim to the title "famous" might be counted on one hand.

About thirty years ago, however, the ballet received a new impetus with the production at the Variety Halls, such as the Alhambra, and, a few years later, the Empire, of performances which, if not exactly ballets of the old school, were still sufficiently like them to deserve the name. This new school, which was distinguished by the transformation of the short-skirted coryphées into a radiantly-coloured chorus dressed in tights, a chorus whose chief duties seemed to be those of looking nice and marching about with military precision, had, and still has, a strong leaning towards the spectacular effect, and each year the dancing became more subservient to this, until it is now of quite secondary importance compared to the rest. That fine effect is gained by all this wealth of colour and display of dazzling dresses cannot be denied, but it is effect gained at the expense of dancing; and though the scene becomes like a coloured

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picture, a painting that an artist might delight in, it is in reality the destruction of a high form of one art for the sake of an inferior form of another.

The stages of the Alhambra and the Empire have for the last thirty years or move been noted for their ballets, and many fine performances have been produced there. At the Alhambra in 1860 was produced a ballet, "Yolande," by Alfred Thompson, which was just on the boundary line between the old and the new schools, having many of the characteristics of the old style, combined With the brilliant spectacular and coloured effects of the new. And that it should have had this display of colour was but natural, as it was a Japanese ballet, the first ever produced in England, and was dressed in all the bright colour and scenery for which Japan is famous.

The Empire, and the Alhambra too, have of recent years, with the introduction of the electric light effects, produced some wonderful ballets, among the best known at the former place being "Faust," "Round the Town," "Les Papillons," etc., of which

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the staging and colour effects have all been arranged by Mr. C. Wilhelm, who has had much experience in that work. For many years Madame Katti Lanner has been a famous director of the ballets at the Empire, and it is in a great measure due to her that the dancing has retained that degree of importance which it still holds.

Nowadays the premieres are all that are left to remind us of the once famous ballets of the "forties." They still preserve the old style of costume, and many of. them go far towards preserving the old excellence of dancing, Mdlle. Adeline Genée, one of the latest arrivals at the Empire, recalling much of the grace of Fanny Elssler. But, for all that, the ballet is now a thing of the past, and, with the modern change of ideas, a thing that is never likely to be resuscitated. And in a way it is perhaps as well, for, as I have said elsewhere, a forced and mechanical style, cannot contribute to the furtherance of the real art of dancing, and movements such as walking on the extreme points of the toes can only be regarded as unnatural.

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From the point of view of acting, it has no doubt been of inestimable service to that kindred art, for it has taught us how much can be performed by mere gesticulation, and that, to an actor, speech is really of secondary importance compared to the acting itself, the correct movements of the limbs and features. An interesting story is told of how Roscius, the great Roman actor, and Cicero, the famous orator, once had a dispute as to whether gesticulation or elocution could best convey meaning. Finding that their arguments led to nothing, they decided to hold a trial of their respective arts, before certain friends who were to be the judges. After some time, the prize was awarded to Roscius, and so delighted was he at the result that he went off and wrote a book on the subject of gesticulation.

The ballet was without doubt the school of pantomimic acting, but from the point of view of dancing itself, it can never be compared to the free and natural style of the best dancers of to-day. And though with its decay a great amount of the interest devoted to the art of Terpsichore

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has been withdrawn, and popular favour much diminished, yet in the best interests of dancing no one can really regret the wane of the Ballet.

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A history of dancing. By Reginald St. Johnston


CHAPTER VII. THE BALLET: ITS ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT.



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"To brisk notes in cadence beating Dance their many twinkling feet."

Gray.--" Progress of Poesy," Part II., 3, 6, 10.

PERHAPS the nearest approach to perfection which dancing as an art ever reached, was to be found in the ballet.
The only detracting circumstance being that the dancing in the ballet was of a mechanical rather than an inspired nature.
So that, while from a purely artistic point of view one can hardly regret the decadence of this form of dancing, yet when one remembers the great impetus it gave to dancing in general, and that without it our stage dancing of to-day might never have existed, we cannot help feeling grateful for the important part it has played in the history of dancing.

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Giving, as it did, such splendid chances for acting, for expression, and for minute and intricate movement, it naturally came to be regarded as the climax of all forms of dancing; yet in itself it was unreal and artificial, and had none of the artistic effects, the ideas of waves, clouds, and swaying trees, which the long skirted dancers of to-day, in their nearer approach to the old Greek style, are able to give. It has been pleaded for the ballet that it was eloquent, dramatic, full of gesture; so it was, but so are also such well-known plays as "L'Enfant Prodigue," and moreover, in these the art of acting is confined to its proper sphere, the drama. It is no plea, I think, for the ballet, as a form of dancing, that its acting was so superb.

The ballet has a long and ancient history of its own, extending tight away from Roman times, through mediæval Italy and France, eighteenth and nineteenth century England, up to the present day; though in speaking now we generally carry in our minds a picture of the ballet of the late Georgian and early Victorian times, when it was at its zenith.

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But the ballet, if we regard it in its real meaning as a dance in rhythmical time by a number of persons who combine gesticulation and acting with their dancing, was undoubtedly performed among the Romans, and in the later Augustan times had arrived at a considerable standard of excellence. The first ballets given at Rome were simply comedies helped out to a considerable extent by gesture, and similar in nature to the old comedies of the Fabulæ Atellanæ, on which, indeed, they were founded; the only difference being that the ballets had a larger number of performers and included both male and female dancers. Then, in time, the dancing began to take the first place in the performance, the acting being helped out by the Chorus singing Cantica describing the plot and occurrences of the play after the Greek manner. These ballets became immensely popular, and the chief poets in Rome were called upon to write the songs and words for them, and several librettos by Lucan, written for the ballets about the year 65 A.D., may still be read.

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From the late Roman period there is a long gap till the fifteenth century, when in Italy again appeared the ballet, though of a different and much more artistic nature than the old Roman performances. Indeed, the Italy of mediæval times may be regarded as its original home; and with that country must always be associated the idea of the ballet as a separate art in itself. The very name ballet is derived from the late Latin "ballare, through the Italian "balletto"; and our English word ballad, literally "a song for dancing," is drawn from the same source.

The first revivals of the ballet in Italy were without doubt founded on the performances of the old Roman pantomimi, and probably these performances had been carried on among the country towns in a but slightly altered manner through all the interval between the Augustine period and the fifteenth century; but about the latter date move attention began to be paid to dancing in general, and particularly to this form of dramatic dancing. So that, in the year 1489, matters were ripe for a sudden revival

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of popular feeling in favour of the ballet, brought about by a big spectacular performance arranged by one Bergonzio di Botta, in celebration of the marriage of the Duke of Milan, at Tortona. This was a magnificent affair, and the performance of it was spread over many hours. Five great spectacles were set forth in it, namely, the Siege of Troy, the Judgment of Paris, the Seasons, the Conquests of Alexander, and a Carnival, each of these shows being in five acts, and each act having three, six, nine or twelve entries for dancers; singing and recitation going on the whole time. This was the precursor of many similar ballets in ltaly, some of them fine performances, but none being quite equal to di Botta's.

Soon, however, the best ideas, and some of the best dancers also, of the ballet, were imported into France, then the most civilized country in the world, and from that time France established that reputation for dancing which with the centuries has gone on steadily increasing, and which she has never lost.

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Katherine de Medicis was the first to introduce the ballet into France, originally with the idea of withdrawing the mind of her son, the king, from affairs of state, in the hope that she might get thereby more power into her own hands. It soon became exceedingly popular with the Court, and performances were given on every possible occasion. Baltazarini, the ballet master whom Katherine had brought over from Italy, reorganized and introduced a uniformity into the ballet, which now began to run on fixed and regular lines, and from this time the modern history of the ballet may be said to have commenced.

In 1581 a great ballet, the" Ballet Comique de la Reine," was given at the marriage of the Duc de Joyeuse, and this was a noteworthy event, in that a few months later a printed book about it, the first book on the ballet ever written, was published; and in this is described, at some length, the music, dialogue, and plot, illustrated by pictures of the various movements and the dresses.

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Henry IV. of France was a great supporter of the ballet, no less than eighty special performances being produced between the years 1590 and 1610, while Louis XIII. and Louis XIV. were equally zealous in their patronage of it. Indeed, both of these monarchs danced publicly in the ballet, and so enthusiastic was the latter that he founded an Academy of Dancing, placing Quinault as the Director, and Lully as the chief composer. A great innovation, the introduction of female dancers, took place in the ballet in 1681; Lully, with the true eye of the artist, foreseeing the far more graceful effect which would be produced by this. The new scheme was a great success, and from that time the ballet has never had to entirely rely on the heavier and naturally more clumsy dancing of men only. The first ballet, in 1681, in which ladies took part, was one called "Le Triomphe de l'Amour," the music of which was written by Lully; but it was not till some years later that female dancers in any number took part in the performances. In this year also, a book, "Des Ballets Anciens et

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Modernes," was written by a Jesuit, Le Pere Menestrier, and for a long time this book was the great authority on dancing.

Louis XIV. now becoming too stout to dance in person, the ballets for a time went out of favour, and for some thirty years matters were at a standstill with regard to their development. However, in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, two female dancers, Mdlles. Salle and Camargo* sprang into fame and caused a sudden revival of interest in the ballet. Thousands flocked to see them, and Voltaire himself made special mention of them in his writings. Mdlle. Salle paid a triumphant visit to England in 1741, this being the first record we have of any noted danseuse appearing in London.
Camargo was said to be able to do no less than eight entrechats before retouching the ground, undoubtedly a record up till that time, and probably still a record.

About this time, too, Vestris, the great Gætano Vestris, first came upon the scene, and by his methods quite revolutionized the ballet. He followed close in the footsteps of another male dancer, Dupre, but his own fame quite overshadowed that of his forerunner.Signor Vfstris. London Magazine, April, 1781.

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He, in company with Mdlle. Camargo, created a sensation in Paris in the year 1775, by a new ballet, "Leandre et Hero," in which they took the two nameroles; this ballet was a noteworthy performance, and is also especially interesting in that Mdlle. Camargo wore for the first time the short-skirted ballet costume, all previous dancers having worn full-length dresses.

Contemporary with Vestris was another great dancer, Jean Georges Noverre, who was noted for the great wealth of acting and expression he put into his dancing. Up till Noverre's time the ballets had been performed in much the same manner as they were under Katherine de Medicis. Each act had been introduced by fresh dancers, and nearly always by a different style of dancing; while invariably a dialogue explaining the plot had been carried on throughout the whole performance by the Chorus. Songs, also, had been introduced at frequent intervals, and indeed the dancing had always been more or less of secondary importance compared to the acting and singing.

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Noverre changed all this, and produced what has ever since been known as the "ballet d'action," the unravelling of a plot by dancing and gesture pure and simple. With him was revived the true art of pantomime, such as had been made use of by the old Roman mimes when at their best; and from the time of Noverre the new school of dancing, which lasted all through the remaining life of the ballet, may be said to have commenced. Noverre was accustomed to say that genius and a power of acting were essential to a good dancer, and in a book he wrote, "Lettres sur la Dance et les Ballets," he lays much stress on this.

In 1772, a new dancer, Maximilian Gardel, appeared, and under his auspices a further important change took place in the ballet. This was no less than the removal of the masks which all dancers had hitherto been in the habit of wearing. This, a relic of Roman times, had been considered a sine quâ non, to the complete equipment of a dancer, and when Gardel first ventured to appear without one, it was the cause of

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considerable surprise and questioning. He nearly lost his popularity through its disuse, but in time people became more accustomed to it; other dancers copied his example, and in two or three years the masks disappeared altogether.

During the period of the French Directory, and after the retirement of Noverre, there was an inclination to introduce a patriotic note into the "grand ballet," as it was now called, and the theatre was much made use of by the authorities to keep up the national spirit among the populace. Some very fine ballets, notably one named the "Marsellaise," were performed at this time; and though there were no individually great dancers, yet the general standing of the ballet was never more brilliant.

The leadership of the dancing world was next taken up by Vincenzo Galleotti, a dancer who secured much fame in Copenhagen, and after him Bournonville, a pupil of his, became the acknowledged head of the profession. Bournonville was made Director of the Academy at Copenhagen between the years 1830 and 1836, and during
G

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that time he produced many famous ballets, among them being the ballet of "Napoli," at that time considered to be the finest the world had ever seen.

It will be noticed that all the names yet mentioned have been those of foreigners, for we in England have never been able to lay claim to any of the world's dancers, and indeed even the English history of the ballet is but the history of foreign dancers who have appeared in this country. The ballet was practically unknown in England till the appearance of Vestris in 1741; and, though ever since that time the English have always been great patrons and admirers of the ballet, they have never been able to produce any dancers equal to those of the Italian or French schools. The first English ballet we have mention of was one called "The Tavern Bilkers," performed at Drury Lane in 1702. This was a descriptive ballet, but danced, of course, in the old style, with songs and dialogue illustrating the plot. As early as 1667, Dryden uses the word "balette" as an English word, but with the exception of this one in 1702 there

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seem to have been no ballets worthy of the name till about 1740. The earlier italian operas in London were performed without the ballet, and this was one reason why the continent was so much more advanced than England in respect to its dancing; for with the history of the opera is entwined that of the ballet. But with the further development of the opera in England, and the accompanying introduction of the ballet as in the Continental manner, we arrive at a period that stands out by itself as the golden age of the ballet in this country, namely, the first half of the nineteenth century.

Not so very long ago, perhaps--indeed, the latter part of that period is well within the memory of many still living; but the ballet is now a thing of the past, and so sharp is the boundary line dividing the days of the opera, of the early Victorian dandies and all their accompanying environment, from the matter-of-fact people of to-day, that the period seems to have been placed almost in another world. The names of Taglioni, Fanny Elssler, Cerito, are merely

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names to most of us--names of once celebrated people, it is true, but for all that nothing more to our ears than are the places on a map to one who has never travelled; and it is difficult foe us to imagine the magic influence, the magnetic power, which once surrounded them.

Those were the days when the Haymarket, Her Majesty's, or Covent Garden, were but patronized for the ballets that were staged there; and when one who had not witnessed the last success of Taglioni, or had not helped to applaud the new performance of Duvernay, was of no account, and but little better than a barbarian. How they flocked to the opera, and how they crowded the boxes and promenades night after night, these bucks of the D'Orsay period, staring through their quizzing glasses at the newest premiere, or bowing with well-measured grace to some fair leader of society in the opposite box! And, sheltered under the protecting wing of fashion, which, contrary to her usual manner, remained unchanged for some thirty years, the ballet made great advances towards perfection, and at the

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end of Taglioni's reign had become as artistic an affair as mechanical skill could ever hope to make it.

Taglioni! Name to conjure with! Can any of our modern celebrities claim to have created the sensation that was caused whenever the great Taglioni was announced to appear? Her name was upon everyone's lips, songs were composed about her, books and music dedicated to her, while "Taglioni" hats, dresses, overcoats, were common signs in all the shop windows. Many, though fewer every year, are yet able to recall scenes of the nightly thronged houses, when the theatres kept on absorbing more and more eager enthusiasts, till they seemed swollen almost to a bursting point; many still living are able to proudly say they saw Taglioni at her prime; yet now her name is almost forgotten, so complete has been the extinction of the ballet!

Another great danseuse, who, if her skill was not so great, was said to have possessed an even greater personal attraction than Taglioni, was Fanny Elssler. The story of how these two competed for fame on the

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Paris Opera stage, first one gaining the acknowledged supremacy, then the other, is one of the romances in the annals of dancing. And to see Elssler dance the Cachucha! That was the one thing to live for in those days. What a perfect furore it caused, and what storms of applause used to greet her appearance every night[ It was said that Fanny Elssler could do anything with her feet that it was in mortal power to do. Oliver Wendell Holmes' admiration for her is shown in the sentence he puts into the mouth of the "Master," in the "Poet at the Breakfast Table." He says: "I have seen the woman who danced the cap-stone on to Bunker Hill Monument, as Orpheus moved the rocks by music,--the Elssler woman, Fanny Elssler."

But with the retirement of Taglioni and Elssler, both in the year 1845, the ballet, having lost its two most brilliant stars, began to fade into insignificance, and though for nearly thirty years afterwards it still retained its original characteristics, it was never quite the same again. The name of Henriette d'Or stands out among the last

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of the old school of the ballet, but from the time of Taglioni the premieres who could lay any claim to the title "famous" might be counted on one hand.

About thirty years ago, however, the ballet received a new impetus with the production at the Variety Halls, such as the Alhambra, and, a few years later, the Empire, of performances which, if not exactly ballets of the old school, were still sufficiently like them to deserve the name. This new school, which was distinguished by the transformation of the short-skirted coryphées into a radiantly-coloured chorus dressed in tights, a chorus whose chief duties seemed to be those of looking nice and marching about with military precision, had, and still has, a strong leaning towards the spectacular effect, and each year the dancing became more subservient to this, until it is now of quite secondary importance compared to the rest. That fine effect is gained by all this wealth of colour and display of dazzling dresses cannot be denied, but it is effect gained at the expense of dancing; and though the scene becomes like a coloured

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picture, a painting that an artist might delight in, it is in reality the destruction of a high form of one art for the sake of an inferior form of another.

The stages of the Alhambra and the Empire have for the last thirty years or move been noted for their ballets, and many fine performances have been produced there. At the Alhambra in 1860 was produced a ballet, "Yolande," by Alfred Thompson, which was just on the boundary line between the old and the new schools, having many of the characteristics of the old style, combined With the brilliant spectacular and coloured effects of the new. And that it should have had this display of colour was but natural, as it was a Japanese ballet, the first ever produced in England, and was dressed in all the bright colour and scenery for which Japan is famous.

The Empire, and the Alhambra too, have of recent years, with the introduction of the electric light effects, produced some wonderful ballets, among the best known at the former place being "Faust," "Round the Town," "Les Papillons," etc., of which

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the staging and colour effects have all been arranged by Mr. C. Wilhelm, who has had much experience in that work. For many years Madame Katti Lanner has been a famous director of the ballets at the Empire, and it is in a great measure due to her that the dancing has retained that degree of importance which it still holds.

Nowadays the premieres are all that are left to remind us of the once famous ballets of the "forties." They still preserve the old style of costume, and many of. them go far towards preserving the old excellence of dancing, Mdlle. Adeline Genée, one of the latest arrivals at the Empire, recalling much of the grace of Fanny Elssler. But, for all that, the ballet is now a thing of the past, and, with the modern change of ideas, a thing that is never likely to be resuscitated. And in a way it is perhaps as well, for, as I have said elsewhere, a forced and mechanical style, cannot contribute to the furtherance of the real art of dancing, and movements such as walking on the extreme points of the toes can only be regarded as unnatural.

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From the point of view of acting, it has no doubt been of inestimable service to that kindred art, for it has taught us how much can be performed by mere gesticulation, and that, to an actor, speech is really of secondary importance compared to the acting itself, the correct movements of the limbs and features. An interesting story is told of how Roscius, the great Roman actor, and Cicero, the famous orator, once had a dispute as to whether gesticulation or elocution could best convey meaning. Finding that their arguments led to nothing, they decided to hold a trial of their respective arts, before certain friends who were to be the judges. After some time, the prize was awarded to Roscius, and so delighted was he at the result that he went off and wrote a book on the subject of gesticulation.

The ballet was without doubt the school of pantomimic acting, but from the point of view of dancing itself, it can never be compared to the free and natural style of the best dancers of to-day. And though with its decay a great amount of the interest devoted to the art of Terpsichore

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has been withdrawn, and popular favour much diminished, yet in the best interests of dancing no one can really regret the wane of the Ballet.

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