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Shakespearean Dance

La Volta - dance pic
La Volta - Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society

Shakespearean Dance
  Resource Guide
  Primary Sources
  Research Papers
  Teaching, Performing & Choreography
  Renaissance Dance Pictures
Renaissance Dance Links - Elizabethan history, the plays, where to study historical dance, etc.

It is difficult to settle on a term to denote the dancing in England from about 1550 to 1650. "Shakespearean dance," a term of my own coinage, refers specifically to the dances in the plays and time of Shakespeare (1564-1616), and more generally to dancing during the heydey of the English public theatres. Historians refer to this period as "early modern", but in dance circles, "early modern dance" refers to early twentieth-century dance. Similarly, dance reconstructors refer to the style of dance in this period as "Renaissance dance," but for historians, "Renaissance" is strongly associated with the politics, scholarship, and artistic achievements of Italy in the fifteenth century. Some literary scholars use the term "English Renaissance" in discussing the time of Shakespeare.

The goal of this website is to stimulate Shakespearean dance scholarship by providing a multi-disciplinary array of relevant sources and resources. Although many of Shakespeare's plays, including Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, and Macbeth, have dances in them, as do plays by Ben Jonson, John Marston, and their contemporaries, dancing has almost entirely escaped the attention of dramatic and literary scholars. Similarly, although dancing was a common activity at all levels of early modern society, and played a role in key political, religious, and cultural controversies in Tudor and Stuart England, few historians have addressed it. Finally, there is a growing number of professional and amateur historical dance reconstructors working on this period, but they tend to focus on interpretting dance manual instructions rather than examining dance within its historical context.

This site includes excerpts from and links to dramatic and literary texts, court records, and other primary sources; bibliographies of secondary scholarship; and links to performing groups and workshops, as well as summaries of my own research in several of these areas. As the very concept of Shakespearean dance is still in its infancy, I welcome all reactions, comments, and questions regarding both content and presentation. You are invited to e-mail me at:

-- E. F. Winerock


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Updated 2 January 2024