Vestris, Gaetan (gäātäNˈ vĕsˈtrēs) [key], 1729–1808, Italian-French classical dancer, b. Florence. Vestris was one of the greatest dancers of the 18th cent. Born of an Italian theatrical family, he studied dance with Louis Dupré at the Royal Academy in Paris, then joined the Paris Opéra and served as dancing master to Louis XVI. Vestris was the first dancer to discard the mask and to use his face in mime.
He taught his son, Auguste Vestris, 1760–1842, b. Paris, who, in turn, was considered the greatest male dancer of his time. Auguste made his debut at 12 with the Paris Opéra and was the company's leading dancer for 36 years. After his retirement he trained many great dancers of the 19th cent., including Fanny Elssler and Jules Perrot.