Summer is at the doors and it is inseparably linked with leisure & vacations. So it was in the 17th century. I won’t break this sacred tradition and will devote the summer time telling you about dancing, arts, theatre the king was fond of so much.
Louis XIV had a perfect art taste. It was expressed not only in contemplation of various sorts of art, among which, I would especially mark dancing & gardening. He was a great artist himself. His personal impact, no matter that it was created with hands of his devoted art team, has passed through centuries and amazes us yet. Starting with beauties of Versailles and finishing with dancing, everywhere we feel his spirit & behold the sunshine calling us to touch a bit of the eternal beautiful.
In this post I would like to tell you about Louis XIV as a dancer. Indeed, he used to dance. And I must say he did it very well. His first serious début happened on the 23rd of February 1653. It was a ballet known as Ballet Royal de la Nuit. Louis appeared as the Sun in this performance and he was only 15 years old. His artistic career, if we might say so, lasted until 1671 when due to problems with the leg, he ceased the ballet performances, but not the court dancing, of course.
We, modern people, won’t hardly be surprised with this way of self-expression…But wait a moment! Even dancing was never an entertainment for the king of France. As the whole Royal life happened under floodlights of publicity, as his personality was sacred, any action of his had the meaning. Ballets, for example, helped Louis XIV to establish the new order at his own Court, to make rebellious courtiers serve their king, to control his favours & disgraces. Soon dancing near His Majesty at the same stage became a great honour any grand wished to obtain, as it made him participate directly in his monarch’s life. This concept was extremely important for the courtiers as any act of the Royal daily routine meant serving for them.
Speaking about the plots of the ballets, I wish to highlight that even most allegoric one was a reflection of the real life in the country and abroad. I also suppose that even dances & movements had the hidden sense which was easily comprehended by people of that time. It is a pity that this beautiful language of movement is partially lost at present…but we will hope that one day it will reappear in the world and we will learn the full meaning of bewitching ballets of the 17th century shone with the Divine rays of Louis XIV’s grace.
Vive le Roy!