Costume de Melle. Louise Fitz-James dans Les martyrs, Opéra, acte II.
During Middle Ages, Church considered dance as a sin and condemned it. Records of Medieval dance are fragmented and limited, but a noteworthy dance reference from the medieval period is the allegory of the Danse Macabre. During the Renaissance, dance experienced growing popularity. Country dances, performed for pleasure, became distinct from court dances, which had ceremonial and political functions. In Germany, originated from a modified ländler, the waltz was introduced in all the European courts. The 16th century Queen of France Catherine de' Medici promoted and popularized dance in France and helped develop the ballet de cour. The production of the Ballet Comique de la Reine in 1581 is regarded by scholars as the first authentic ballet. In the 17th century, the French minuet, characterized by its bows, courtesies and gallant gestures, permeated the European cultural landscape.
The first half of the 19th century was vital for the history of ballet. The dance style was still baroque but the technique of the ballet class as we know it was established. A ballet was viewed as a danced drama and dancing scenes mostly occurred in extended divertissements and celebratory scenes. In 1799, the ballet was officially recognized as a separate and vital entity at the Paris Opéra. The Paris Opéra Ballet successfully navigated the french revolution turmoil under a rule of Pierre Gardel, it's balletmaster in 1787-1827. Two most important productions of the post-revolutionary decades were La Sylphide, 1832 and Giselle, 1841. Sometimes viewed as an obscure period in ballet's history, the early 19th century might better be seen as the continuation of a rich, complex art form, absorbing new developments that would have far-reaching impact. Artists from the period have left drawings of ballet costumes and choreographies that invite modern investigatiors.