Foreign Flowers on British Soil: The ballet d’action in England

My paper will explore the arrival of the literary 'ballet d'action' in England. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a number of dramatic story ballets appeared on the London stage. Many of them, such as Vestris' Médée et Jason after Noverre, were revivals or new versions of successful Continental production. Others were original creations on unusual or unprecedented subjects for ballets, for instance Shakespeare's Macbeth and Tempest. My paper will focus on some ballets inspired by works of literature, and I will ask questions such as: did the imported ballets change when they were brought to England, and if yes, how? Did the taste of English audiences influence the choice of subject and the way ballet masters in London adapted their sources? How did English audiences read and respond to this new genre of ballet? These questions will be examined through comparative analyses of some elements of eighteenth-century dance that we can still read today, especially scenarios, programmes and reviews. 

Iris Julia Bührle
Author affiliation
New College, Oxford