Ballet has had a bad press for a long time. It is seen as a “misogynist”, “conservative” art form and an “aristocratic” relic. In this course we’ll study the context and the content of romantic ballet as it emerged as a revolutionary movement in the early 19th century in France. We’ll read and analyze ballet libretti of French, English, German, Italian and Russian works and contextualize their stories. We are going to answer the following questions: When and why do women become the heroines of ballet narratives? What do these heroines stand for? What is their relationship to their male counterparts?
Through the theories of Heinrich Heine and Théophile Gautier we are going to understand the concept of romanticism in dance and follow its development to the end of the 19th century into the early 20th century. Together with the narrative we shall trace the history of ballet from the 15th century to the French revolution, study the social reality of the dance world, the practice in the opera houses of Europe, and the development of a particular dance aesthetic that made ballet world famous.