What is baroque dance?
The term is used to refer to ballroom and theatrical dance of France, other Western European countries, and their colonies during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Is baroque dance baroque (that is, highly decorated, ornamented, and so on)?
Well, sometimes. The steps can be highly decorated, curved shapes and paths are often used, and the choreographic thread is sometimes elaborately nonlinear. But it can also have elements of classical order and symmetry, and even simplicity.
So why is it called baroque dance?
Presumably, partly by analogy with music and other arts of roughly the same period, and partly because it does have baroque elements.
The origins of the baroque dance are found in the court at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV of France in the 1600s. The art of ballet was born under his rule, thanks to his passion for dance. Because of Louis XIV, balls, operas and the baroque dance played a pivotal role in the lifestyle at Versailles.
Louis’ connection with the dance was personal. When he took the throne at a young age, according to Labelldanse.com, “his authority was opposed by a faction of nobles in a series of uprisings known as the ‘Frondes'”. After the Second Fronde was conquered, “Cardinal Mazarin (who ruled through the regent, Louis’ mother, Anne of Austria)” directed a ballet called “Le Ballet de la Nuit.” In the la Nuit, Louis danced the main role of the Rising Sun. While Louis acted In character as the sun, he warned that anyone who chose to oppose his power “would soon feel his heat.” This threat was directed towards the nobles, reminding them that their opposition to the royal authority would not be tolerated
After Louis had felt his power as the Rising Sun character, he employed dance with the mindset of it being used as a weapon of State. Due to his enthusiasm for dance, the establishment of the Academie Royale de la Danse emerged in 1661. From then on, other ballets and operas that were composed by other directors such as J.B. Lully, praised Louis as “the wisest, most powerful and benevolent ruler in Christendom.”
The form of dancing gathered popularity through parts of Europe, England and Spain. Other ballrooms and operas embraced the court dance forms and began teaching what Louis had created. In 1738, French dancing masters traveled as far as Russia, where Jean-Baptiste Lande established a school that gradually became the school of the Kirov Ballet at the Maryinsky Threater. According to Labelledanse.com, other French dance instructors traveled to the New World where French ballroom dances became popular “in the salons of the governors of New France (Quebec) and later at Colonial assemblies in which George Washington danced the minuet.”
The baroque dance form that was made famous under the Sun King continued to thrive during reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. As the French Revolution began in the late 19th century, the dance grew closer to the modern form of dance known as classical ballet.