Gaetano Apolline Baldassare Vestris the Franco-Italian dancer and choreographer more commonly known as Gaetan Vestris, studied dance and music in Italy, Vienna and Dresden.
He entered the Académie Royale de Musique in 1748, and in 1751, he succeeded his ballet teacher Louis Dupré as Premier Danseur. He became embroiled in a dispute with Ballet Master Jean-Barthélemy Lany and after a duel and a period of imprisonment, Vestris was dismissed from the Opera and forced into exile in Berlin and then Turin, where he arranged his first choreography.
In 1755, on his return to Paris, he was re-hired by the Paris Opera where he performed alongside his sister Theresa, in the ballets Emprise de l'Amour and Amadis. He also made regular trips to Stuttgart to study under Jean-Georges Noverre.
In 1761, Vestris was appointed Ballet Master and Choreographer at the Académie royale de Musique in Paris, however, having faced expulsion again, he would really only serve in the role between 1770 and 1775. During that time, he created several ballets, including Médée et Jason (1770), Endymion (1773) and Le Nid d'oiseau (1776). In 1776, he stepped down to make way for Jean-Georges Noverre.
He bid farewell to the stage in 1782 after triumphing at the King’s Theatre in London. Regarded as “the God of Dance”, Vestris quickly became an outstanding performer of the Noble style inherent in Noverre’s ballets.
In his Lettres sur la danse, Noverre wrote: “Vestris the father inherited Dupré’s fine talent and his sobriquet; he was proclaimed the God of Dance; he equalled his master in perfection and surpassed him in variety and taste. Vestris danced the pas de deux with feeling and elegance. His frequent trips to Stuttgart led him to study. He became a great actor and knew through the sincerity of his acting how to add substance to all of my mimed poems in which he played the lead characters. His retirement from the Opera was a fatal blow for Noble dance: deprived of so fine a model, the genre drifted into the realms of extravagance”.
Back to top