Dancing for the King: When French dancers were called to the Court, their daily life according to the Royal Archives

The French Court organized recurrent and non-recurrent sequences of performances during festivals celebrating weddings, births, peace, but also for entertaining the King and his subjects, in Versailles, in Fontainebleau during the autumn hunts, or in other royal residences. We must be aware of how pre-eminent was dance (and music) in all kind of performances, from the tragédies lyriques, opéras-ballets, opéras comiques etc. to comedies played by Italian and French actors. For the three Royal theaters (Comédiens Français, Comédiens Italiens-Opéra Comique, and Académie Royale), the archives of the Menus-Plaisirs, by annual accounts categorized as “Comédies et concerts”, “Voyage de Fontainebleau” in the Archives Nationales O1 collections, let us follow the daily life of the dancers called to the Court. These documents tell us many little details as hot chocolate cups, or litter for carrying back a dancer injured during a rehearsal, an hazardous stage floor, costumes and props for the troupe, lights, rehearsals and accommodation, travel by coaches from Paris. Far from being slaves of an absolute monarchy, the artists had, relatively speaking, a comfortable professional life, expecting they should entertain the Court in the best conditions and express all their artistic qualities.

Dominique Lauvernier
Symposium Title: 
Living, dancing, travelling, dying... 2013
Author affiliation: 
Université de Caen, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, Equipe HISTARA