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Charles-Louis Didelot (1767–1837) was a French balletmaster in the fullest sense of the word: an exacting teacher-director, whose many contributions included dancing en pointe and mime work; a highly imaginative choreographer, who often collaborated with his composers and even instructed the orchestra; an innovative scenographer, whose insistence on authenticity and realism in costuming and staging revolutionized the production of ballet. Above all, he was a perfectionist; and in Revolutionary Paris, in Regency London and in Imperial Petersburg Didelot single-mindedly pursued his career, ignoring royal imperatives and fighting court intrigues and theatrical politics to realize as fully as possible his larger vision of the dance.

Based upon extensive research in four languages, Mary Grace Swift’s book is the first biography in English of Didelot. It is a full, impressively documented account of his life and career, in which she brings vividly to life the artistic milieu in which Didelot flourished.

Mary Grace Swift entered the Ursuline Order in 1947 and was educated at Creighton University and Notre Dame University, in history and Russian studies. Swift taught at Loyola University. Her first book, The Art of Dance in the U.S.S.R., was published in 1968. A Loftier Flight was awarded the first de la Torre Bueno Prize for the best unpublished book-length manuscript in the field of dance, in 1973.



Publication Date



Wesleyan University Press




NEH, National Endowment of the Humanities, open books, Melon Foundation, open access humanities, dance, ballet, Charles-Louis Didelot, Mary Grace Smith, regency England, revolutionary France, French Revolution, balletmaster, dance writing


Dance | Digital Humanities | Other Arts and Humanities | Other History


Loftier Flight, by Mary Grace Swift, is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Publication of this title is funded by the Humanities Open Book program, a joint initiative of The National Endowment for the Humanities and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Images reproduced on pages 58, 61, 69, 70, 71, 74. 127, and 167 are reproduced with the permission of © The Trustees of the British Museum

A Loftier Flight: The Life and Accomplishments of Charles-Louis Didelot, Balletmaster