The Impact Of The French Revolution On Ballet

2470 words - 10 pages

The impact of the French Revolution on Ballet

The French Revolution was a bloody civil war that lasted from the years 1789-1799. [1] The revolution arose out of hard economic times that had befallen France. Widespread famine and hunger, due to a grain shortage, rampaged through sections of the country. The economic crisis led to an increase in taxes on the lower classes, known as the third estate, to upkeep the lavish lifestyle of the nobility. [1] All of these are the known factors that led to the rise of the French Revolution.
The revolution emphasized the ideals of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” and was characterized by the strong will of the French people who stood up for what they believed in. It was also an extremely bloody time, which saw the rise of the guillotine, a contraption used for public executions and to instill a sense of fear in those opposed to the revolution. The revolution saw the public execution of the King and Queen, Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette as well as thousands of others. The upper class feared for their lives.
The French Revolution was one of the bloodiest and terrifying times that France as a nation had to undergo. As would be expected, the Revolution pervaded all forms of life, and arts and culture were not immune to its reach. Ballet in France was commonly associated with Louis XIV at the onset of the Revolution because of the huge impact that he played in the growth of ballet. He established the Academie Royale de Danse, which was the first recognized school of ballet.
Ballet in Louis XIV's court was characterized by extreme ornamentation and gaudiness. The ballet master, Jean Baptiste Lully, sought to show the dignified style of the Sun King. The themes of ballets at court ranged from mythological to semi-historical but always reflected necessary political etiquette for those who were at court. [4]
Costumes during the period immediately preceding the Revolution, commonly known as the Baroque period, were extremely showy. Dances were typically cold and extremely stylized, they did not seek to connect with the audience but rather to astound them with extreme wealth. Watching a ballet from the time period would more likely leave the audience in awe at the scenery and intricacies rather than feeling raw emotion from a moving storyline. Ballet’s that were shown in the theaters leading up to the fall of the Bastille were always subject to scrutiny and censorship. Each ballet or play that was shown on stage had to be consistent with the political and social views of the monarchy.
Ballet was rooted in court life, and it was not as widely available to the common people. As such, it had to adapt in order to survive this particularly deadly and brutal period in time. The ballet’s that the court was accustomed to seeing were disconnected from the lower class, just like the actual courtiers themselves. Ballet is just one example of why exactly the French people rose up against their government. They...

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