Reading History in the Italian Ballet Scenarios: The Case of Louis Henry
In the wide range of productions by the choreographer Louis Henry (1784-1836), specifically performed in the Italian theatres of Naples (Real Teatro San Carlo and Real Teatro del Fondo) and Milan (La Scala), there are several balli pantomimi inspired by historical or heroic characters. Some ballet titles are, for example: Numa Pompilio (1809), Guglielmo Tell (1809), Sansone (1810), Edoardo III, o sia l'assedio di Calais (1828), Arminio (1829), Adelaide di Francia (1830) etc. Moreover, the definition of 'ballo storico' started appearing in the frontispieces of librettos at the beginning of the nineteenth century, marked by relevant historical events, from the Napoleonic domination to the first riots of the Risorgimento. This paper aims to analyse the development of historical ballet as a typical genre of the nineteenth century, by focusing on the relationship between dance and the political and social context of this age. Evidence comes from reading ballet scenarios with a double research approach: by considering not only how the choreographer used subjects and characters, but also his specific work to create a performance and convey meaning through the languages of Italian pantomime and French academic technique.