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Women’s Work

Making Dance in Europe before 1800

Edited by Lynn Matluck Brooks

Publication Year: 2007

Like the history of women, dance has been difficult to capture as a historical subject. Yet in bringing together these two areas of study, the nine internationally renowned scholars in this volume shed new and surprising light on women’s roles as performers of dance, choreographers, shapers of aesthetic trends, and patrons of dance in Italy, France, England, and Germany before 1800.
    Through dance, women asserted power in spheres largely dominated by men: the court, the theater, and the church. As women’s dance worlds intersected with men’s, their lives and visions were supported or opposed, creating a complex politics of creative, spiritual, and political expression. From a women’s religious order in the thirteenth-century Low Countries that used dance as a spiritual rite of passage to the salon culture of eighteenth-century France where dance became an integral part of women’s cultural influence, the writers in this volume explore the meaning of these women’s stories, performances, and dancing bodies, demonstrating that dance is truly a field across which women have moved with finesse and power for many centuries past.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

This volume began at the urging of Barbara Sparti, who suggested thistheme to me in June 2001 at a conference of the Society of Dance His-tory Scholars (SDHS). I then pursued work on this collection of essayswith the support of Sandra Noll Hammond, then on the editorial boardof SDHS; Sandra’s wisdom, warmth, and knowledge were and have re-...

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Introduction: Women in Dance History, the Doubly Invisible

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pp. 3-16

Women have been difficult to capture as historical realities. They appear far less often than men as players in the documented historical record. Somewhat surprisingly, this is true also in the historical record of dance, a field currently closely associated with women. Like the history of women, dance has been difficult to capture as a historical subject.


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1 Isabella and the Dancing Este Brides, 1473–1514

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pp. 19-48

At the age of sixteen, Isabella d’Este became Marchioness of Mantua after her marriage to Francesco Gonzaga in 1490. She is best known, thanks to her prolific correspondence, as a collector and patron of the arts, a mistress of fashion and elegance, and an able, astute politician.1 Dance, too, played an important part in her world.

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2 Fabritio Caroso’s Patronesses

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pp. 49-70

In the late sixteenth century, several “how to dance” books were published. Authors carefully described individual steps and then gave complete dance choreographies, often with accompanying music in melodic line and/or lute tablature. Through the intervening centuries, one such book, the Orchesographie of Thoinot Arbeau, a French clergyman, has ...

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3 At the Queen’s Command: Henrietta Maria and the Development of the English Masque

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pp. 71-95

With these words, William Davenant prefaced the libretto of Luminalia, the queen’s masque of 1638, paying tribute for posterity to the French princess’s mastery of the English dance theater and her ambitions for it. This discussion will elucidate Davenant’s assertion through analysis of the queen’s early program for masques. Modern scholarship has privileged the art of the professionals, ...


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4 The Female Ballet Troupe of the Paris Opera from 1700 to 1725

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pp. 99-122

It was not until 1681 that female dancers first appeared on the stage of the Royal Academy of Music, during a revival of the Triomphe de l’Amour. There were four: Mesdemoiselles Caré, Pesant, Leclerc, and La Fontaine. The Opera dance company, which had so far been exclusively composed of men, was at long last opening up to professional female dancers.

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5 Fran

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pp. 123-159

Among the first professional female dancers who entered the Paris Opera at the end of the seventeenth century, Fran

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6 Marie Sall

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pp. 160-182

Marie Sallé (1707–56) was clearly a prominent figure in early eighteenth-century dance who continues to hold an interest for scholars and performers today. Yet how much do we actually know about her influence on others as a performer? And how can we measure her impact as a choreographer when no detailed information about any of her works is known to survive?

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7 In Pursuit of the Dancer-Actress

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pp. 183-204

The London theater companies of the early eighteenth century included several women who were both dancers and actresses. They were not dancers who occasionally took minor acting roles, nor were they actresses who sometimes danced when required. These women not only danced regularly in the entr’actes and took leading roles in danced afterpieces but they also had their own acting roles,


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8 Elisabeth of Spalbeek: Dancing the Passion

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pp. 207-227

In the middle of the thirteenth century, the young Elisabeth of Spalbeek became widely known for her danced reenactments of the Lord’s Passion.1 Elisabeth’s supporters understood her dances as a divine revelation received directly from God for the purposes of inspiring her audiences and renewing their faith. Her performances, revered by her religious superiors, were held in a specially built round chapel.

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9 Galanterie and Gloire: Women’s Will and the Eighteenth-Century Worldview in Les Indes galantes

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pp. 228-256

The title of the op


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pp. 257-259


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pp. 261-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780299225339
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299225346

Publication Year: 2007