On this day in 1717 The Loves of Mars and Venus opened in London. It was the first ballet to be performed in Britain.
The ballet was created by John Weaver who was a dancer, choreographer and pantomime performer. Up until The Loves of Mars and Venus the “ballets” that had been performed in Britain contained singing and speaking. Despite getting a good reception, no one was that bothered about seeing any more ballets and the art form pretty much petered out in the UK until the 19th century. Hardly surprising, given that the performers wore masks, heavy clothes and the women pranced about in high heels. La Sylphide it was not. In fact, although dance historians like to have a little jig of joy about this early ballet, it’s hard to know why. At this stage of the evolution of ballet the female dancers could barely move, their “prancing” about was very limited; the masks worn by all the dancers
meant that you might as well have been looking at a big old puppet lumping about the floor.
There is very little evidence left of Weaver’s ballet. We know that it was based on classical stories, that people quite liked it and there was no singing or speaking, but that’s it. It wasn’t until much later in the century that the first ballet that is still performed was created. That was La Fille Mal Gardée, although to start with there wasn’t any getting up en pointe and gliding around. The first dancer to do that was Marie Taglioni in about 1822. She was also the first dancer to perform in something akin to the modern tutu. She did not dance The Loves of Mars and Venus because she thought it was shit and she didn’t want to hide her face behind a mask.
Before we leave the hallowed world of skinny bints and men whose padding gives the impression of a mighty large package, I should tell you that before ballet got professional and really rather good, people like Louis XIV would get up and prance around in ballets. If anyone was fool enough to tell the Sun King that his performance was a bit flat he would hand them over to Mazarin, who had learned how to be a really good torturer and henchman under Cardinal Richelieu.
Although the ballet has not been performed or thought about for nearly 300 years, it is understood that some idiot told John Gray about it and told him he should write a book about it. We all know what happened next.
Today is not the birthday of
So no mention of green eggs and ham.
But Dr Seuss today was born
He had no teeth so could not eat corn
But he soon knew how to rhyme
And that he did all of the time
He saw a cat
He saw a hat
We all know what happened after that.
He then had an idea about a Grinch
Who stood far higher than an inch
And stole a special holiday
A particularly jolly day
He liked to write exciting stories
Wasn’t bothered by silly glories.
He was a most admired chap
He would never give you the clap
So send some happy cheer his way
On this his very special day
Be glad, be funny and be gay
And all that merry type of stuff
And as a final by the way
Old Seuss did really love the muff