Jean Georges Noverre

Noverre, Jean Georges


Born Apr. 29, 1727, in Paris; died Oct. 19, 1810, at St.-Germain-en-Laye. French choreographer and ballet master.

A student of the ballet teacher L. Dupré, Noverre began his career as a dancer in 1743. From 1755 to 1757 he headed a ballet troupe at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. He developed the principles of heroic and tragic ballet in his Rinaldo und Armida, Admète et Alceste, and Médée et Jason by Rodolphe, Der gerächte Agamemnon and Apelles et Campaspe by Asplmayr, Die Horazier und die Curazier (The Horatii and the Curiatii) by Starzer, and in other works staged in Stuttgart and Vienna. Noverre was ballet master at the Paris Opèra from 1776 to 1780. From 1781 to 1794 he worked periodically in London.

Noverre staged more than 80 ballets. In 1759 he published his famous work Letters On Dancing and Ballets, in which he explained the principles of the ballet d’action, created through the use of effective mime and dance in cooperation with the composer, choreographer, and set designer. Among Noverre’s students were J. Dauberval, C. Didelot, and C. Le Picq. His theories, supported by practice, have caused Noverre to be known as the father of ballet as we know it today.


Lettres sur la danse, sur les ballets et les arts, vols. 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1803–04.
Lettres sur les arts imitateurs en général et sur la danse en particulier, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1807.
In Russian translation:
Pis’ma o tantse i baletakh.[Edited and with introduction by Iu. I. Slonimskii.] Leningrad-Moscow, 1965.


Sollertinskii, I. I. “Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo Noverra.” In Klassiki khoreografii. Leningrad-Moscow, 1937.
Lynham, D. The Chevalier Noverre: Father of Modern Ballet, a Biography. London, 1972.


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Nevertheless, the first two essays, by Sarah McCleave and Bruce Alan Brown, form an effective pair, focusing on the work of three key figures in the development of ballet d'action: Marie Salle, Gasparo Angiolini, and Jean Georges Noverre.
For example, one needs to look beyond this monograph to learn that Jean-Louis de Cahusac (1706-1759), author of La danse ancienne et moderne (1754), was one of Jean-Philippe Rameau's librettists, and that Jean Georges Noverre (1727-1810), author of Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets (1760), had a long career as a dancer and choreographer (see pp.