French dancer and ballet master, disciple of Jean-Georges Noverre, French ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer, often credited with establishing the comic ballet as a genre.
Jean Dauberval (originally Jean Bercher) was born in Montpellier, 19 August 1742 to a family of theatre actors, and since the young age he had been prepared to act on stage. Aged 18, a young dancer in the beginning of his career, he moved to Turin, where he debuted as a choreographer staging several pantomimic shows, which included Triumph of Dionysus in Thrace (1759). After that he moved to Lyon, where he met an outstanding ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre, who is generally considered the creator of ballet d'action, a precursor of the narrative ballets of the 19th century. Jean was enthralled by Noverre’s ideas, started developing them further and then became Noverre’s disciple taking part in his performances.
In 1761 Dauberval made his debut at the Paris Académie (now Opéra) and became noted for his outstanding pantomimic dance ability.
In 1762 and 1764 Dauberval performed in Stuttgart. In 1773 he was appointed Assistant Ballet Master with the Paris Académie. From 1781 until 1783, he was engaged as Maître de Ballet (alongside Maximilien Gardel) to the Académie. After his resignation in 1873 Dauberval left the Académie and moved to Spain and cooperated with various European companies. At some point he worked in London, where he staged Le Déserteur for the King’s theatre. The production used both the musical score and the plot of a homonymic opera, which was very popular at the time. Nevertheless, soon after these events he decided to move to Bordeaux.
In 1785 – 1791 Dauberval worked with the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. With this very company he fully revealed his talent as ballet master and father to the comic ballet.
His works incorporate democratic tendencies proper to the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution, introducing common folk characters to the title roles in his ballets. Dauberval developed the ideas of the expressive ballet d’action submitting all choreographic means to one main concept. The ballet master looked to combine dance with pantomime and folk traditions in his works.
The list of his works includes: Triumph of Dionysus in Thrace (1759), L' Heureuse rencontre ou la Reine de Golconde (1785), Le Page inconstant (after Beaumarchais's Le Mariage de Figaro, 1787), L'Epreuve villageoise (1787), La Fille mal gardée (1789), Momus vaincu (1789), Télémaque dans l'île de Calypso (1797) and other.
Dauberval’s pupils included famous dancers and ballet masters, such as Carlo Blasis, Charles Didelot, sometimes called the “father of the Russian ballet” and Salvatore Viganò, who introduced the dance-drama into Italy.
Jean Dauberval died 14 February 1806 in Tours, France.