The court ballet, a spectacle of power
A genre born in the late 16th century at the Court of France, court ballets combine poetry, vocal and instrumental music, choreography and stage design. Members of the royal family and courtiers took part in the ballets along with some professional dancers. It reached its apex under Louis XIV, who gradually turned it into a political propaganda tool with the help of Mazarin, highlighting the power of France and its monarch.
In 1651, when he reached the age of majority at 13, he made his debut as a dancer on stage in the Ballet de Cassandre. In 1653, in the Ballet de la Nuit, the young king triumphed as the rising sun at the finale. This resulted in his becoming known as the Sun King. Every year a great royal ballet was staged. There were 27 of them. In 1654, in the Noces de Thétis et Pelée, he danced Apollo in the prologue. In 1670 he took part for the last time in a court ballet as Apollo and Neptune: in Les Amants Magnifiques, by Molière and Lully.
Dance was one of Louis XIV’ greatest passions, as the foundation of the “Académie Royale de Danse” in 1661 clearly shows.