About Olivia

Olivia Sabee (CBA ’18) is Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College where she teaches courses in dance studies, choreography, and ballet technique. She holds a Ph.D. in French from Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French and Italian ballet and her writing has appeared in Dance Chronicle, Romance Studies, and Modern Language Notes. She also directs the Washington, D.C.-based contemporary dance company Agora Dance.

Language, Narrative, and the Corps de Ballet

Using dance treatises, criticism, libretti, literary and theatrical texts, and archival materials, Language, Narrative, and the Corps de Ballet analyzes the role of balletic ensemble dancing in France from the late Enlightenment through the July Monarchy. Exploring the ways in which eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ballets told stories, both with and without language, this book begins with the theoretical underpinnings of the Noverrian action ballet, lays out the ways in which the development and choice of ballet characters was tied to questions about language, expression, and each character’s necessity to a work’s plot, and then examines how the idea of character shifted during the first decades of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, it argues that shifting ideas about the portrayal of characters and ensemble dancing affected each other, creating new paradigms for thinking about group dancing within the story ballet.

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