French dancer, choreographer and ballet master Jean Dauberval (1742–1806) was one of the most successful choreographers of his era. He is best known today as the original creator of La Fille mal gardée, a ballet that has since been adapted by numerous choreographers, including Frederick Ashton.
Dauberval was born Jean Bercher in Montpellier. He trained as a dancer with Paris Opera Ballet and began his career there in 1761, promoted to premier danseur noble in 1770. He created his first dance works in 1763–4 on a visit to London. In 1772 he was appointed assistant ballet master with Maximilien Gardel for Paris Opera Ballet. He and Gardel became joint ballet masters in 1781 before Dauberval resigned in 1783. He moved to the King’s Theatre in London the following year and then on to Bordeaux in 1785, where he and his wife Mademoiselle Théodore (Marie-Madeleine Crespé) enjoyed great popularity. It was in Bordeaux he created his great masterpieces La Fille mal gardée and Le Page inconstant, which, in addition to his Le Déserteur (1772) were consistently popular well into the 19th century.
Little concrete is known of Dauberval’s choreography, but from their popularity and influence he can be considered one of the most important choreographers of his age. At his time he was most admired for his innovative ability to integrate dramatic action into dance. Carlo Blasis records him saying ‘it is not sufficient for me to please the eyes; I wish to interest the heart’.