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The Symbolic Literature of the Renaissance

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Italian: Balli

Authority: Tesauro

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     The Ballet or dance is one of several of the performing arts which were included by contemporaries as symbolic genres. As Tesauro wrote in the Cannochiale Aristotelico (p486): ‘the Ballet is a Metaphor of Action signifying with gestures and with movements internal human feelings or external actions’ and he gives as examples the ballets of Aristophanes which alluded to the disorders in the Athenian Republic. By the time of Tesauro’s book ballets as entertainments at the royal court were common, such spectacles having been produced at least since the late 15th century. The Ballet Comique de la Reine (comique at that time meaning dramatic rather than funny) first performed at the French court in 1581 with repeat performances all over Europe is the first such production for which the score survives. Almost a century later, Louis XIV as a young man was a frequent performer in his own productions at the French court and it was from one of these that he earned his title as the Sun King. One of those who created a ballet for Louis was Claude-François Menestrier who as part of his complete Philosophie des Images, subsequently wrote a text book on the ballet, Des Ballets Anciens et Modernes, of 1682 which described many contemporary ballets and is still required reading in today’s ballet schools.

See also: Burlesques, Festivals