Garfunkel begins the story of ballet in the court of Catherine de MÃ‰dicis (1519-89), Queen of France, when it was first given its present form of dance and pantomime set to music. At that time, however, the participants were members of the court--not professional dancers, who were considered dÃ‰classÃ‰. It was not until the mid-17th century, when Louis XIV was himself too old and fat to dance, that the nobility ceded its privilege to dancers trained by the Royal Academy of Dance that Louis founded in 1661. From that point on, ballet was performed by professional dancers and soon became entertainment for the non-nobility as well. The professional dancers were at first only men (although noblewomen had danced along with men in the original ballet de cour, or court ballet), but in 1681 professional women dancers were introduced into the ballet, and the stage was set for ballet as we know it. Garfunkel continues the story through the 20th century, mentioning many important dancers, choreographers, and ballet troupes -- whole chapters are devoted to such important contributors as George Balanchine and Anna Pavlova -- and she places everything clearly in historical context. For all the information that Garfunkel packs into this slim volume, the tone never seems didactic. Well-chosen pictures enhance the presentation. A lucid and interesting history that reads like a novel. Glossary and bibliography.