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John Weaver (1673—1760) dancer and choreographer

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Carlo Blasis (1795—1797)

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The first London ballet performances were given by French and Italians during the 17th and 18th centuries, though two English men, John Weaver (dancer, choreographer, teacher, and writer) and John Rich (impresario and mime artist) were also influential personalities within the dance scene. Rich presented M. Sallé and her brother in London in 1725 and London's taste for ballet was further whetted by A. Vestris and Noverre performing seasons at the King's Theatre and Drury Lane, as well as by Didelot's work at the King's Theatre (1796–80). However, efforts to establish an English academy of dancing by the English ballet master James Harvey D'Egville were unsuccessful and the domination of foreigners continued with Blasis's appointment as ballet master at the King's Theatre (1830–40), M. Taglioni's debut in 1830, and Perrot's appointment as ballet master at Her Majesty's Theatre (1842–8) under the direction of B. Lumley. Here Perrot created Pas de quatre (1845) for Taglioni, Cerrito, Grisi, and Grahn and London became briefly one of the most active ballet centres in the world. After Lumley's resignation, however, ballet was allowed to slide at Her Majesty's and performances continued largely in the programmes of music halls, such as the Alhambra and Empire where K. Lanner and Genée were the dominant dance personalities. The arrival of Russian-based companies at the beginning of the 20th century and regular seasons by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes provided an important new stimulus to British ballet, and during the 1920s and 1930s London saw the establishment of seminal schools and companies by Rambert and de Valois, as well as the foundation of the Camargo Society and various short-lived companies like the Markova-Dolin company and Tudor's London Ballet. Between these, the first solid generation of English dancers and choreographers was nurtured. After the war de Valois's Sadler's Wells Ballet moved to Covent Garden, to become the Royal Ballet in 1956. In the late 1960s the foundation of the London Contemporary Dance School and Theatre, and Ballet Rambert's switch to a modern repertoire, opened up a new modern dance scene. With the founding of international festivals, such as London's Dance Umbrella in 1978, the proliferation of small- and middle-scale companies, and the emergence of venues capable of programming a wide range of styles, notably Sadler's Wells Theatre, London has become one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan dance cities in the world.

Subjects: Dance.

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