Expressing the Passions in the First Modern Ballet

John Weaver’s determination to create dance that was expressive of human emotions – passions – was what made The Loves of Mars and Venus truly modern. The title page of his scenario for the ballet declared it to be ‘A Dramatick Entertainment of Dancing, Attempted in Imitation of the Pantomimes of the Ancient Greeks and Romans’, but Weaver was creating something new.

In his Preface, Weaver explained:

‘these Mimes and Pantomimes were Dancers that represented a Story or Fable in Motion and Measure: They were Imitators of all things, as the Name of Pantomime imports, and perform’d all by Gesture and the Action of the Hands, Fingers, Legs and Feet, without making use of the Tongue. The Face or Countenance had a large share in this Performance, and they imitated the Manners, Passions, and Affections, by the numerous Variety of Gesticulations.’

Throughout his account of the action scene by scene, Weaver explained the means by which his dancers expressed the passions of their characters. They used gestures, many of which Weaver described in detail. They used specific movements, where action was needed, and they imitated the behaviour of their contemporaries in the grip of strong emotions.

In our The Loves of Mars and Venus; or, Mr. Weaver’s Dramatick Entertainment, we have tried to recreate all these modes of expression.

Our next performance is at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire, at 4pm on Thursday 8 June 2017. Tickets are available from the Theatre.

This is your last chance to see this innovative celebration of the first modern ballet, for now!


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