The dancer and choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre's Letters on dancing and ballets were first published in 1760, and set forth his ideas for the reform of ballet, ideas which were considered revolutionary in their day and were not fully implemented until more than a century later.
At a time when court ballet had degenerated into a meaningless succession of conventional dances, Noverre advocated a unity of design and a logical progression from introduction to climax. Movement was to be defined by the time and tone of the music, and choreographers were advised to avoid over-complicated steps and turn to nature for natural means of expression. Costume was to be reformed, and masks, full-bottomed wigs, and cumbersome dresses abandoned in favour of simpler attire.
Letters on dancing and ballets is one of the most important dance books ever published, and through its influence Noverre can be seen as the grandfather of ballet as we know it today. The present translation was made by the great dance historian Cyril W. Beaumont, and first published by him in book form in 1930.