Dance and Ritual: The Ballet Des Nations at the Court of Louis XIII
The Ballet des Nations (the ritualized parade of foreigners on the court stage) was a common feature of royal entertainments in France during the 1620s and 1630s. Propagandists used the ridicule of France's neighbors to assert French national identity, and the glorious image of the king relied on the contrast with the negative representation of other countries. The depiction of foreigners was a caricature constructed from alleged national characteristics which reinforced the audiences' prejudices. Foreign politics added some bite to this ridicule, and at times of heightened tension the debasing of the Spanish or English national character may have acted to neutralize the danger these countries represented to France. The ballets of the late 1630s often referred to contemporary French military success in either a realistic or an allegorical manner, and at this time the Ballet des Nations changed into a vehicle for emphasizing the universal fame of the French king, so underlying the imperialist ideology that sustained French royal propaganda. The court ballets of the 1630s projected an idealized image of the court as united and harmonious, which mirrored Richelieu's attempts to curb the power of the noblemen of the realm.