Dance pedagogy in Letters (1760) by J.-G. Noverre: The originality of the body of the dancer

The main purpose of this study is to analyse the dance pedagogy in Letters on Dancing and Ballets (1760) by J-G Noverre and consider his theory under the new aesthetic theory of the 18th century, originality.    
 In his writings, Noverre insists that the work of ballet should have a dramatic and unified structure. In this sense, this writing is a theory on ‘imitation art’. Noverre, meanwhile, focuses on the various physical form of each dancer, in particular ‘arqué’ and ‘jarreté’, and criticises the dancing masters who try to standardise them. He insists that the dancing masters should not impose ‘sameness’ on pupils and that dancers should seek original ways of expressing the passion of drama based on their own forms instead of learning from or copying someone. Noverre, that is to say, indicates the impossibility of dance pedagogy. Although Noverre searches for the imitation of a story, he turns his interest to the individuality of the body of the dancer as a medium. Considering this from the viewpoint of aesthetics, it is therefore possible to conclude that Noverre’s Letters shows the important shift of art theory, namely from imitation to originality, that dawned in the middle of the 18th century.    

Keiko Kawano is a doctoral candidate in Aesthetics at Osaka University, a Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and a stage doctoral at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle. She holds master’s degrees in Aesthetics and Art History from Keio University and in Comparative Culture and Literature from Tokyo University. Her research interests are in French theories of dance as drama from the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly those of C.-F. Ménestrier, L. de Cahusac, and J.-G. Noverre. Her thesis focuses on the aesthetic concepts of interest and originality in these theories. Her main publication is ‘The narrative of the dance in the Letters by J.-G. Noverre: studying the concept of the action’ (Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Society of Dance History Scholars, pp. 117-126, 2014).


Keiko Kawano
Symposium Title: 
Teaching Dance 2016
Author affiliation: 
Osaka University, Japan