Dancing in Versailles from the Sun King to the French Revolution

The path of the French monarchy from the peak of absolutism to its downfall was accompanied by court festivities which often reflected the  sovereign’s  internal  and  external  policy.  In  the latter half of the seventeenth century, the garden of Louis XIV’s newly built castle of Versailles became the setting of sumptuous celebrations in which dancing played a crucial role. The first major celebration, which took place in 1664, saw the premier of Molière and Lully’s “Princesse d’Élide”, an early example of the new genre of “comédie-ballet” which later culminated in Molière’s works “Le bourgeois gentilhomme” and “Le Malade  imaginaire”.  Louis  XV  and Louis XVI continued to celebrate political successes and family events such as royal marriages and births in Versailles until the eve of the Revolution. In 1770, a new opera was inaugurated in the castle; at the same time, Queen Marie Antoinette gave private “fêtes” in her own Trianon castle which were directed by her protégé Jean-Georges Noverre.

The paper will focus on the different settings (the garden and the theatre of the castle, the Trianon), performers (the sovereign, courtiers, professional dancers), genres (ballets, comédie-ballets) and their relation to the political context.

Iris Julia Bührle was born in Rome, Italy and studied History of Art, Comparative Literature and International Relations at Stuttgart University, Sorbonne-Nouvelle Paris, Sciences Po Paris and Oxford University. She has written numerous reviews and scholarly papers on ballet, including two Master’s theses on Clavigo by Beaumarchais, Goethe and Roland Petit and Death in Venice by Mann, Britten and John Neumeier. In 2008, she assisted in organizing the Bavarian State Ballet’s festival week, Petipa symposium and John Cranko gala and wrote an article on choreology for the company’s publication ‘John Cranko: the choreographer and his work in Munich’. Her other research interests include UNESCO (articles in Revue d’histoire diplomatique and UNESCO Courrier), an organization she worked with for various projects on history and the arts, including dance. Her doctoral studies focus on choreographic adaptations of literature in France and Germany from the 18th century to the present day. In December 2011, she authored a bilingual biography of the British dancer Robert Tewsley: Robert Tewsley: dancing beyond borders (Wurzburg: Königshausen & Neumann).


Iris Julia Bührle
Symposium Title: 
Dancing for Anniversaries and Occasions: Chamber, Court, Theatre & Assembly 2015
Author affiliation: 
Sorbonne-Nouvelle Paris/ Stuttgart University