March 2 – First Ballet in Britain

Posted on March 2, 2016

I am a bit surprised that the first ballet in Britain was in the 1700s. After all, ballet developed as a kind of performance dance in Italy in the 1400s and as a form of concert dance in France and Russia in the mid-1500s and 1600s. It seems surprising that it took centuries for the art form to reach Britain!

Apparently, most classical ballet up to and in the early 1700s lacked any sort of story. English choreographer John Weaver not only wanted to bring ballet to his nation but wanted to bring drama to ballet. He created a ballet based on a play, which in turn was inspired by Greek mythology; both the play and the ballet were called The Loves of Mars and Venus.

Drury Lane Theatre
Weaver attempted to portray the plot and the emotions of the play through dance – through movement, pantomime, etc. Nobody spoke lines; nobody even sang lines.

The ballet was popular enough to inspire a parody version by an influential producer.

On this date in 1717, The Loves of Mars and Venus premiered in Drury Lane Theatre in London.

Ballets that tell stories are so common now, I think of ballets that do NOT do so as experimental, but back in 1717, Weaver was the one doing the experimentation!

  • Wood TV tells how the Grand Rapids Ballet company tells stories – here about a World War II hero, and there about Beethoven.

  • ArtsEdge has a lesson about how to tell a story through movement, and SEDL offers another, similar three-session lesson. 

Also on this date:

Peasants' Day in Myanmar

Plan ahead:

1 comment:

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