In 1781, ballet master Maximilien Gardel presented La Feste de Mirsa, a sequel to his 1779 ballet en action Mirza. Given the latter’s success, Opéra audiences anticipated another evening of praiseworthy entertainment, but the La Feste proved a total failure, disappearing after one performance. Critics denounced the ballet for its disappointing lack of finesse, but a close reading of the two ballets and their reviews uncovers more aesthetic and narrative similarities than differences. What does distinguish them is the role of affect: Mirza inspiring sympathetic connections to imperial hegemony and white masculinity, La Feste to diversity, femininity, and human equality.

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