- Fiona Macintosh
ExtractRecent scholarship on ancient *pantomime has led to an interest in its impact on the development of modern ballet, ballet d’action, in the 18th cent. When the dancing masters and choreographers, John Weaver and Jean-Georges Noverre sought to dignify dance as an art form sui generis (after its generic separation from opera from the end of the 17th cent. onwards), it was to the ancient treatises of *Lucian (Salt.) and *Libanius that they turned. The ‘first’ modern attempts to revive ancient pantomime were a danced version of Act IV of Corneille’sHorace by Louis XIV’s daughter-in-law, the Duchesse du Maine (nr. Paris, 1714) and John Weaver’s Loves of Venus and Mars (London, 1717). But the most prolific, and notorious, choreographer of ballets d’action was Noverre whose treatise, Lettres sur la danse (1803–1804) was the first serious account of modern dance. Noverre looked to ancient pantomime for its mimetic and expressive power in order to demonstrate that ballet was no mere virtuoso art form, but a potential rival to both painting and opera in its ability to deal with serious subjects and tell a story with gesture and movement alone. Many of Noverre’s ballets d’action draw the source of their inspiration from Greek tragedy, the most famous of which is Medée et Jason (1776).