France and King Louis the XIV
France soon took the lead in progressing ballet into what we know it as today. King Louis the XIV loved the arts and was known as a great dancer. He looked back to what ballet was during Catherine de Medici’s rule and tried to emulate it. He saw that large court ballets could raise his standings and also bring people together. He became known as the sun king because he played Apollo in Le Ballet de la Nuit in 1653. Ballet was still for the court although professional dancers were starting to make their appearance. The court ballet peaked during the reign of King Louis the XIV(1643-1715). King Louis the XIV hired the Italian-French composer Jean Baptiste Lully to create the music for the ballets. The French choreographer Pierre Beauchamp was hired to create the dances. Beauchamp defined the five positions of the feet that we know today. This was the beginning of ballet as as art form that could be passed on from teacher to student.
King Louis the XIV started one of the early ballet schools and the first professional ballet company. The school, The Royale Academy of Dance began in 1661. He then started The Royale Academy of Music in 1669. The Paris Opera ballet which still exists today came out of this school. King Louis the XIV stopped dancing in the ballet in 1670 and gave way to the professionals. At that time women were not dancing in the ballets. In 1681 the first female dancers to perform professionally were seen in the ballet, The Triumph of Love. In that ballet appeared the first prima ballerina on record, Mademoiselle de Lafontaine.
During Louis the XIV’s reign ballet was developing at a fast pace. This was the beginning of the a more theatrical dance. Professionals were emerging and steps were being recorded. This period would live on into the 1700s as a popular form of entertainment.