This article examines the form of early modern French court entertainment known as the ballet des nations, named for its insights into the emerging discourse on nations and national character in seventeenth-century Europe. The ballet of nations, in which costumed dancers impersonated stereotypical national types, was one of the most popular elements of the grand ballets performed at the French court from the 1570s through the end of Louis XIV's reign. This article analyzes how Frenchness is defined in the ballets through contrast with foreign national types, through exclusion of provincial identities, and through the conflation of behaviors marked as noble with those marked as French. Situating the ballets' presentation of French national character within the context of theoretical debates about the relative conventionality or naturalness of danced representations, this study also shows how the ballet of nations sets the stage for later discourses on nationhood.


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pp. 3-23
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