Ben's Research Trip to Paris

Organized by: Ben Sanders

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My name is Ben Sanders. I am a rising senior at the George Washington University (GWU) double majoring in dance and theatre. This summer, I begin research for my senior honors thesis in dance that will be the capstone project of my time as an undergraduate at GWU. Unfortunately, I do not have the money I need to adequately research this topic to the fullest of my capabilities.

The research for this project focuses on King Louis XIV’s use of dance as propaganda to maintain political control over the French aristocracy from 1643-1715. His tactics brought together a divided conglomeration of provinces with their own parliaments, their own local estates, and their own sets of laws. At the center of it all remained one thing: dance and its association to the King. I intend to use the findings of this research to create a new dance work that looks at King Louis XIV, also known as the “Dancing King”, from a new perspective.

Through a 14-week scholarly research process and a 31-week choreographic rehearsal process, I will contextualize propagandist ballet storylines and imagery incorporated in the French ballets from 1643-1715. I will trace the interplay between major socio-political and economic events that faced the French monarchy in the late 1600’s-early 1700’s and the parallel formalization of ballet. This research is intended to illuminate not only Louis XIV’s influence on the development of dance, but also his successful campaign to control the aristocracy of France. Concurrently, through my choreography, I will incorporate my research to create a new dance work that provides a fresh perspective on Louis XIV accompanied by a panel discussion.

During a week long trip in August of 2015 to Paris, France, I will search the archives within the Paris Opera Ballet Library through connections I have made at GWU, where numerous amounts of historical information on the French court and Louis XIV’s repertoire reside. There I will look through manuscripts, music from court, and documentation of dance as well as information on the socio-political state of France before, during, and after Louis XIV’s reign. I will also tour the Royal Academy of Dance (the first state supported academy of ballet), the Louvre, and the Palace of Versailles. These locations will provide vital information on the formation of the state funded ballet and school as well as give a sense of where Louis XIV’s presentation of his many dancing fetes and personal dance solos to court took place.

With budget cuts becoming more and more common in higher education, funding for undergraduate research, especially in the arts, has become more difficult to find.  With the money raised from this fundraiser, I will be able to travel to Paris, France to study at the Paris Opera Library with leading scholars on Louis XIV and the formalization of ballet as well as visit locations that were so important to the beginning of ballet.  Your support will provide me with the opportunity of a lifetime.  I want to thank you for your consideration and any support you may be able to provide.


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