Dance: An Early History (300 CE-1800 CE)

Timeline created by thoot
  • Jun 1, 600


    A song-and-dance performance to flute music that arose from Ancient Greek festivals where Maenads (followers of Dionysus) were asked to perform in an effort to redirect their riotous actions. Eventually, around 600 BCE, a performer named Thespis took a character mentioned in a song and turned it into the leader of the chorus, developing the coryphaeus, or leader of the chorus.
  • Sep 25, 600

    Pyrrhic Dance

    An Ancient Greek war dance comprised of stomping and shouts that survives in some capacity to this day.
  • Mar 15, 1400

    Origin of the word "ballet"

    Ballet was derived from the Italian verb "ballare", which means "to dance".
  • Sep 25, 1400

    Ductia, Stantipes, and Estampie

    Festive medieval dances performed during the Middle Ages. The ductia was popular amongst the wealthy, and the stantipes was complex enough that it was supposed to prevent performers from thinking about "vulgar matters". The estampie was a stately couples dance that later developed into basse danse (around 1400), which was a slow-moving dance with low, elegant steps.
  • Sep 25, 1400

    Domenico Piacenza

    One of the first Italian 'dancing masters'. Wrote the first surviving European treatise on dancing.
  • Dec 31, 1400

    los seises

    A Christian worship dance performed by choirboys in Seville, Spain. One of the few instances in the Middle Ages where dance was encouraged by the Church.
  • Oct 15, 1581

    "Ballet Comique de la Reine"

    Considered the most important early attempt at creating an extended choreographic work. At nearly six hours long, this spectacle consisted of song, dance, recitation of poetry and was presented in the Salle Bourbon near the Louvre Palace in Paris. It was commissioned by Catherine de Medici, who was effectively regent ruler of France, and 'choreographed' by a valet of Catherine's named Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx.
  • Orchesographie

    Dance manual written by Thoinot Arbeau. Discusses not only dances of the time but proper etiquette and grooming and flute and drum playing.
  • Ballet de la Felicite

    An entertainment given to honor the birth of Louis XIV.
  • Academie Royale de Musique (Paris Opera)

    Founded by Louis XIV, dancers have appeared in productions at the Academie since its founding. As such, the Paris Opera Ballet is considered the oldest ballet company. The opening of the Academie helped greatly hasten the professionalization of dance as it moved from the courts to the stage.
  • Pomone

    The Academie Royale de Musique's inaugural production, an opera featuring dance sequences.
  • Mademoiselle de La Fontaine

    A dancer for the Paris Opera regarded as the first prima ballerina and one of the first professional female dancers. Made her stage debut in Lully's "Le Triomphe de l'Amour".
  • Minuet

    A theatrical French court dance in 3/4 time, the minuet was meant to be seen as much as it was meant to be done. Considered a sort of courtship dance, performers placed each other under intense scrutiny and flaws in dancing were interpreted as flaws in character.
  • Francoise Prevost

    A famous dancer and choreographer who created a suite of solos called "Les Caracteres de la Danse". A powerful dancer in her own right, she also crafted two very important dancers: Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo and Marie Salle.
  • Marie Salle

    Another of Prevost's students, Salle was much more gifted at portraying characters and emotion while dancing. She also became known for instituting costume reform, by insisting that the costuming accurately reflect the character she was portraying so as to have a more realistic emotional performance.
  • Marie Camargo

    Student of Prevost who made her Paris Opera debut in 1726. Camargo was renowned for her virtuosic technique, to the point where Prevost relegated her to the corps out of concern that she would have a technical rival. Camargo was especially talented at jumps, and was the first woman to execute the entrechat quatre. In order to make this move more visible, she shortened her skirt by several inches, and has subsequently become associated with this costume reform.
  • Jean-Georges Noverre

    A French dancer and ballet master who is credited with creating the ballet d'action. Wrote "Letters on Dancing and Ballets" in 1760, which was a treatise on dance aesthetics and continues to be a powerful dance text in modern society. Fun fact! International Dance Day (4/29) takes place on his birthday.
  • Ballet d'Action

    A new form of ballet that focused on dramatic coherence, unlike the episodic opera-ballets (or ballets aux entrees). Ballet d'Action sought to tell a story through movement, further cementing dance as an art form.
  • Period:
    Sep 25, 1100
    Sep 25, 1500


    A bizarre form of dancing popular in Medieval Europe for several centuries. The costumes were often eccentric and featured bells, as noise was said to keep evil spirits away. The movements were similarly eccentric and there were many different types of moresca.
  • Period:
    Jan 1, 1300


    A period of artistic growth across most of Western Europe that began in Italy. Important both socially and politically, but most known for the artistic developments that took place.
  • Period:
    Jan 1, 1500

    Renaissance Dances

    Renaissance court dances were varied.
    Pavane- ceremonious and slow
    Galliard- lively dance with leaps and kicking steps
    Courante- swift with running and gliding steps
    Volta- The lady would leap in midair, assisted by the gentleman.
    Sarabande- slow-paced dance that was branded as lascivious
  • Period: to

    Pierre Beauchamps

    Teacher of Louis XIV and dance master. Credited with codifying the five positions of ballet.
  • Period: to

    Louis XIV (b. 15 Sep 1638)

    Commonly known as the Sun King, Louis XIV of France was a large patron of dance as well as an exemplary dancer himself. For Louis (and, really, most of France), everything in life was a performance. Louis stopped dancing in 1670, yet continued to support dance as an art form.
  • Period: to

    Jean-Baptiste Lully (b. 28 Nov 1632)

    Primarily a composer for the French court under service of Louis XIV. While also a dancer, Lully's greatest accomplishments were the musical scores he composed for court ballets. Tragically died in 1687 after stabbing his foot with a timekeeping staff and getting gangrene.
  • Period: to


    A form of theater consisted of detachable scenes joined by a common theme. Made use of singing, dancing, and stage effects.