Welch, Ellen R. "Fictions of the Courtly Self: French Ballet in the Age of Louis XIV." Early Modern French Studies 39, no. 1 (July 2017): 17-30.
Court ballet after the Fronde has been understood as a technique for subjugating nobles, literally and metaphorically keeping them dancing in the monarch's orbit. This essay reconsiders ballet's role in fabricating aristocratic identities under Louis XIV through a reading of the performances of two celebrated English dancers (the Dukes of York and Buckingham) in the Ballet Royal de la Nuit (1653). These performers' status as outsiders and as court celebrities with well-known personalities highlights the dancers’ influence over the roles they incarnated on the ballet stage. The body types and especially the self-fashioned social personas of performers were the raw material to which court artists added costume, choreography, and poetic text to create ballet characters. Dancers therefore acted as implicit collaborators in creating their onstage personas. Drawing upon Performance Studies' re-interrogation of the dynamics of subjection and agency in embodied practices, the analysis of the English dancers' unique case allows us to speculate about the degree of autonomy afforded to all noble performers and, more broadly, to consider how ballet expresses the mutual interdependence of sovereigns and nobles in court society.