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when ballets were revived in Italy at a magnificent entertainment given by a nobleman of Tortona, on account of the marriage between Galeas, Duke of Milan, and Isabella of Arragon. Every resource that poetry, dancing, music, and machinery could supply was exhausted on the occasion. The description given of so superb an entertainment excited the admiration of all Europe, and the emulation of several men of genius,' who, improving upon the hint given them, introduced among their countrymen a kind of spectacle equally pleasing and novel.

It would seem, however, that at first the women had no share in the public or theatrical dance ; at least we do not find them mentioned in the various entertainments given at the opera at Paris, till the 21st of January, 1681, when the then dauphiness, the Princess de Conti, and some other ladies of the first distinction in the court of Louis XIV., performed a ballet with the opera, called Le Triomphe de l'Amour. This union of the two sexes seemed to enliven and render the spectacle more pleasing and brilliant than it had ever been before. It was received with so much applause, that on the 16th of May following, when the same opera was acted in Paris, at the theatre of the Palais Royal, it was thought indispensable for the success of that kind of entertainment to introduce female dancers, who have ever since continued to be the principal support of the opera.

Dancing subsequently continued to encroach upon the sister arts of poetry and music, until it came to be considered by many, particularly at Paris, as the paramount attraction. To the monotony and tiresome length of the recitatives may be chiefly attributed the disfavour into which music had fallen. A wit, being one day asked what could be done to restore the waning taste for the opera, replied, that they should lengthen the dances and shorten the petticoats. In the first instance music supplanted poetry, and dancing now superseded both; usurping a pre-eminence which several distinguished ballet-masters contributed to maintain. The art, however, of composing those grand dances which are now so much admired, was

many years in a state of infancy, till Monsieur Noverre gave it a degree of perfection which it seems impossible to exceed. In an elaborate book upon the subject, this celebrated ballet-master and performer has with great eloquence


and ingenuity delineated the nature, objects, and powers of dancing, and shown how much it may be ennobled by an acquaintance with the kindred arts.

Ballets, he observes, have hitherto been only faint sketches of what they may one day become ; for, as they constitute an art entirely subservient to taste and genius, they may receive daily variation and improvements. History, painting, mythology, poetry, all join to raise it from that obscurity in which it is buried, and it is only surprising that composers have hitherto disdained so many valuable accessories and resources. “ If ballets, therefore," says he, "are for the most part uninteresting and uniformly dull; if they fail in the characteristic expression which constitutes their essence; the defect does not originate from the art itself, but should be ascribed to the artist. Are then the latter yet to learn that dancing is an imitative art? I am indeed inclined to think that they know it not, since we daily see them sacrifice the beauties of the dance, and give up the graceful naïveté of sentiment to become the servile copyists of a certain number of figures known and hackneyed for above a century.

“ Ballet-masters should consult the productions of the most eminent painters. This would bring them nearer to nature, and induce them to avoid, as often as possible, that formality of figures which by repeating the object presents two different pictures on one and the same canvass. Such figures must give way to nature in what we call ballets d'action. An instance may serve to support and elucidate my argument.

“ At the sudden and unexpected appearance of some young fauns, a troop of nymphs take themselves to flight with equal terror and precipitation. The former are in pursuit of the latter, with that eagerness which the very hope of pleasure can inspire. Now they stop to observe what impression they have made on the nymphs; these, at the same time, and for a similar reason, check their career : with fear they survey their pursuers, and endeavour to guess at their intentions and provide for a retreat to some spot where they may rest secure from the dangers that threaten them. Both troops now join, the nymphs resist, defend themselves, and at last effect their escape with no less swiftness than dexterity..

• This I call a busy active scene, in which the dance, as

it were,

should speak with energy, Here studied and sym. metrical figures cannot be introduced without a manifest violation of the truth, without weakening the action and lessening the effect. The sæne should be conspicuous for its beautiful disorder, and the art of the composer must here be the handmaid of nature.

“Perhaps some ill-disposed critics, so far strangers to the art as not to judge of it from its various effects, will maintain that the above scene should pursue only two different objects; the one portrayed in the love-sick fauns, the other expressed by the affright of the nymphs. But how many shades may serve to embellish these pictures—how varied may be the strokes of the pencil ? how opposite the lightsand what a number of tints ought to be employed in order to draw from this twofold situation a multiplicity of images, each more lively and spirited than the other. The truth of imitation and the skill of the painter should conspicuously appear in giving a different aspect to the features; some of them expressing a kind of ferocity, others betraying less eagerness; these casting a more tender look ; and to the rest the languishing air of voluptuousness. The sketch of this first picture naturally leads to the composition of the second: here some nymphs appear divided between fear and desire; there some others express by the contrast of their attitudes the various emotions of the soul. This ensemble gives life to the whole picture, and is the more pleasing that it is perfectly consistent with nature. From this exposition you will not hesitate to agree with me that symmetry, the offspring of art itself, should never find place in the ballet d'action.

“I shall beg leave to inquire of all those who reason from habitual prejudice, whether they will look for their favourite symmetry in a herd of sheep flying from the wolf, or among wretched peasants leaving their huts and fields in order to shelter themselves from the fury of a party of enemies? Certainly not. But the art lies in concealing art itself; my aim is by no means to introduce disorder and confusion; on the contrary, I will have regularity even in irregularity What I most insist on is the introducing of wellconcerted groups, situations forcibly expressed, but never beyond nature; and above all, a certain ease in the composition which betrays not the labour of the composer

“A ballet, perfect in all its parts,” our author proceeds to observe, “is a picture drawn from life, of the manners, dresses, ceremonies, and customs of all nations. It must, therefore, be a complete pantomime, and through the eyes speak, as it were, to the very soul of the spectator. If it want expression, if it be deficient in point of situation and scenery, it degenerates into a spectacle equally fat and monotonous."

According to Plutarch a ballet is, if the expression may be allowed, a mute conversation, or a speaking and animated picture, whose language consists of motions, figures, and gestures, unlimited in their number, because there are no bounds to the varieties of expression. A well-composed ballet, therefore, may do without the assistance of speakers. M. Noverre indeed remarks, in the very spirit of his profession, that these only serve to weaken the action, and partly destroy its effects; and he declares that he has no opinion of a pantomime, which, in order to be understood, must borrow the help of verbal explanation. “Any ballet whatever,” he says, “destitute of intrigue, action, and interest, displaying nothing more than the mechanical beauties of the art, and, though decorated with a pompous title, unintelligible throughout, is not unlike those portraits and pictures to which the painters of old subscribed the names of the personages and actions they meant to represent ; because they were imperfect in point of imitation, the situations weakly expressed, the outlines incorrect, and the colours unseemly.

“ When dancers shall feel, and, Proteus-like, transfer themselves into various shapes to express to the life the conflict of passions,—when their looks shall speak their inward sensations,—when, extending their arms beyond the narrow circle prescribed by pedantry, and with equal grace and judgment giving them a fuller scopr, they shall by proper situations describe the gradual and successive progress of the passions; when, in fine, they call good sense and genius to the assistance of their art, then they may expect to distinguish themselves : explanatory speeches will become useless; a mute but powerful eloquence will be substituted to much better effect; each motion will be a sentence ; every attitude will betray a situation ; each gesture convey a thought, each glance a new sentiment; and

every part will please, because the whole will be a true and faithful imitation of nature.

Whether human beings can be found to realize this beau ideal of an accomplished dancer we cannot determine, not wishing to compromise ourselves upon a matter of such vital importance; but it must be confessed that the enthusiastic ballet-master disserts upon the subject con gusto, con

Had he written with his feet he could not have been more earnest, eloquent, and impressive, though we cannot help still suspecting that the eight parts of speech are capable of expressing our feelings more effectually and intelligibly than the five positions, however they may be imbued with a mute conversational power under the plastic modification of M. Noverre.



Dancing, concluded. “If an exercise so sociable and enlivening were to occupy some part of that time which is lavished on cards, would the youth of either sex be losers by it? I think not. It seems to me there can be no impropriety in it, any more than in modulating the voice into the most agreeable tones in singing, to which none, I think, will object. What is dancing, in the most rigid sense, but the harmony of motion rendered more palpable? Awkwardness, rusticity, ungraceful gestures, can never surely be meritorious.”—Fordyce's Sermons to Young Persons.

From the preceding chapter it will appear that ballets aro in some degree subject to the rules of poetical composition, though they differ from the regular drama by not requiring the three unities of time, place, and action. The ballet, therefore, may be termed the brother of the drama, unrestrained by those stricter regulations which only serve to cramp the imagination and confine genius. M. Noverre considers tragedy as the subject most suitable for the art of dancing, since it abounds in those nuble incidents and situations which produce the best stage effects. Besides, the passions are more forcibly expressed in great characters, the imitation is of course less difficult, and the action in the

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