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Subproject B7

Stage Dance - Social Dance - Dance Music - Art Music in the Ancien Régime

Department and Research Field: Musicology and Dance Science

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Silke Leopold

Department of Musicology
Heidelberg University
Augustinergasse 7
69117 Heidelberg

Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 27 81
Fax: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 27 87


Dr. Hendrik Schulze
resigned Aug. 31, 2010

Dr. Hanna Walsdorf

Project Program

Dance is ritualized communication. Since the beginning of choreographic transcription of social and stage dances in the middle of the 15th century, we can prove that dance has always been modeling and reflecting social situations and change.


Beside the mere pleasure to move, dance above all was a mean to determine one's own social position within the group. It constructed intimacy and distance, ritualized seduction following socially acceptable rules, controlled emotions and determined the gender relations.


The history of dance generally describes the period between Louis XIV's accession to the throne in 1660 and the French Revolution in 1789 as the "era of the minuet".


In fact, the king achieved that the dances developed at his court and codified by the Académie de Danse (an institution he himself founded) became model all over Europe.

Of course, the French model was not only changed and adapted to the local contexts in all parts of Europe. During the three to four generations that passed until the French Revolution, it also underwent changes that proved seismographic for the socio-political developments.


Based on four case studies, we will examine these processes concentrating on dance, that is to say choreography. However, our primary focus will be on music. We will investigate:


1. the relation between stage dance and social dance under Louis XIV,

2. the replacement of the Italian by the French dance culture in Italy between 1680 and 1720,

3. French court dances adopted by the German bourgeoisie during the first half of the 18th century, and

4. stage dance, social dance and art music in Vienna during the second half of the 18th century.


We will research these case studies in view of our overall question: Which changes had an impact on the choreographic as well as compositional connotation of the ritual of social dance as it traveled to other countries, other societies and other times.

Main Topics