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Margaret M. McGowan

(b 1604; d Turin, July 19, 1667). Italian poet, choreographer and composer. He began a brilliant political and artistic career in the service of Cardinal Maurizio of Savoy. About 1630 he entered the household of Duke Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy, on whose death in 1637 he became chief counsellor and favourite of the Duchess Cristina, accumulating honours and fortune. Except for an enforced sojourn in Paris from 1640 to 1644 his official duties kept him at the Savoy court where he wrote or conceived more than 30 ballets, plays with music, water festivals and carousels to celebrate significant political alliances and Cristina's birthdays. His first work, Bacco trionfante dell'India e caccia pastorale, dates from 1624, his last, La perla peregrina, from 1660.

Variety, ingenuity and spectacle characterize all d'Aglié's works, which also include elegant and witty allusions to court personalities (Il Gridelino, 1652) or to specific tastes (...


Irene Alm

[Giambattista; ‘il Tasquino’]

( fl 1636–57). Italian choreographer, dancer, stage designer and impresario . He was involved with Venetian opera from its inception. Cited as ‘Veneziano Ballarino celebre’ in the libretto for Francesco Manelli’s L’Andromeda (1637), he continued to provide choreography for operas at Venice for the next seven years. Beginning in 1645, his affiliation with the travelling Febiarmonici introduced Venetian opera to other Italian cities. They produced Francesco Sacrati’s La finta pazza in Florence in 1645 and Cavalli’s La Deidamia (first performed Venice, 1644) there in 1650. In December 1652 Balbi and the Febiarmonici produced Veremonda l’Amazzone d’Aragona (?Cavalli) in Naples. Veremonda and La finta pazza, presented earlier that year, served to introduce Neapolitan audiences to the innovations of the Venetian stage machinery and dance. During Carnival 1653 Balbi created the set designs and choreography for the anonymous Le magie amorose and for Provenzale’s Il Ciro in Naples.

Balbi also played an important role in the introduction of Venetian opera to northern Europe. While in Florence in ...


Maureen Needham

(b Paris, Oct 30, 1631; d Paris, early Feb 1705). French dancer, choreographer, composer and conductor. He has been wrongly identified with Charles-Louis Beauchamps. Called the father of all ballet-masters, he codified the five positions of feet and arms, and developed a rational system of dance notation which is now called after Raoul-Auger Feuillet, who published it (in his Chorégraphie, ou L’art de décrire la dance) in 1700.

Beauchamps was Louis XIV’s personal dancing-master and favourite partner in ballets de cour in the 1650s and 60s. Throughout his career he collaborated with Lully, whom he first met as comic dancer in, and later as composer of, ballets de cour. Beauchamps choreographed intermèdes and dances for Molière’s comédies-ballets, beginning with Les fâcheux (1661), for which he also composed the music and conducted the orchestra. He choreographed entrées for Le mariage forcé (1664), Le bourgeois gentilhomme...


(b ?Paris, ?1676; d Paris, Aug 6, 1739). French dancer, choreographer, and academician. His dancing-master father, Antoine (d 20 July 1740), married Catherine Beauchamps, the sister of dancing-master Pierre Beauchamps, with whom Michel reputedly studied. Michel was also connected to [J.-B. Poquelin] Molière’s family through his wife, Marie-Nicole-Thérèse Dugast (married 7 May 1701). Michel danced at the Paris Opéra from 1690; from 1728 until his death he was a ‘compositeur des ballets’. On occasion, he choreographed or performed in ballets for the French court. Among other works, he choreographed a Ballet de la Paix (1713) for the Jesuit Collège Louis le Grand. His famous pupils included Marie-Anne Cupis de Camargo, Marie Sallé, and, allegedly, Franz Hilverding van Wewen. Noverre claims that Blondi did not teach his students to read dance notation, but as a member of the Académie Royale de Danse, Blondi signed a resolution condemning Pierre Rameau’s ...


Carol G. Marsh


(b Paris, March 1648; d Paris, 1719). French dancing-master, choreographer, violinist and possibly composer. He came from a family of violinists and dancing-masters. He danced the role of a monkey in 1660, and by 1666 he was clearly an accomplished and versatile professional. In 1674 he choreographed a divertissement by Cambert for performance at the English court. Among his illustrious pupils was the dauphine, Marie-Anne Christine-Victoire.

Favier was one of several late 17th-century French dancing-masters to devise a dance-notation system. He used it to preserve his choreography for A.D. Philidor's Le mariage de la grosse Cathos (1688), which includes movement notation for all 28 performers, including singers and instrumentalists. Favier notation lacks the visual attractiveness and readily discernible floor patterns of Beauchamp-Feuillet notation, but it has two advantages over the latter: dances for large groups are more easily notated, since each dancer has his own ‘part’, as in a music score; and greater rhythmic precision is possible....


Meredith Ellis Little

(b 1659–60; d June 14, 1710). French choreographer, dancing-master and author. He worked at the court of Louis XIV. His fame rests on his Chorégraphie, a book describing a system of dance notation that was used in Europe throughout the 18th century. He probably did not invent the system himself (although he said he had) but derived it from the original work of Pierre Beauchamps, Louis XIV's personal dancing-master. Unlike previous methods, which describe movement verbally and use letters to refer to the sequence of steps, Feuillet's system is a track notation. It represents symbolically not only the steps of the dancer, with his turns, leaps and slides, but also the floor pattern in which he is to travel. The dance music is printed at the top of the page, and the steps are marked off in a manner corresponding to the structure of the music (see Little and Marsh for an inventory of the extant dances)....


Maureen Needham Costonis

(b Paris, 1725; d 1777). French choreographer and dancer . He was the son of Antoine Bandieri de Laval (b Paris, 1688; d Paris, 20 Oct 1767), who had been a noted exponent of the danse sérieuse and had choreographed many revivals of operas by Campra and others. Michel-Jean joined the ...


Jennifer Thorp

[Josiah ]

( bc 1645; bur. Chelsea, Jan 3, 1735). English dancing-master and choreographer . He may have been the ‘Mr Priest’ who danced an entrée with Mary Davis in Sir Martin Mar-All at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre in 1667 (Downes) and probably the Josiah Preist (the form of the surname often preferred in early sources) who was arrested with four others in 1669 for ‘teaching, practising and exercising musick’ without a licence. The Joseph Preist who, with Luke Chanell, made the dances for Davenant's Macbeth at Dorset Garden Theatre in 1673 and was involved in John Crowne and Nicholas Staggins's masque Calisto at Whitehall in 1675 may not be the same person. Established by 1668 as a dancing-master in Holborn, Josias Priest moved to Leicester Fields in about 1675 to run a boarding-school for gentlewomen. In November 1680 he and his wife took charge of a similar school at Gorge's House, Chelsea, where he hosted performances of Blow's ...