Dance, Performance and Politics

A Study of how Choreography developed in Court Ballets to meet changing political needs.

A talk by Margaret M. McGowan (1931-2022)

We are very sad to announce that Professor Margaret M. McGowan, CBE, Fellow of the British Academy and Research Professor at the University of Sussex, passed away on 16 March 2022.

Her talk, which she had left ready to be delivered, has been kindly recorded by Dr Jennifer Nevile of the University of South Wales, Sydney, Australia – you can find it below.


Daniel Rabel (workshop), ‘Ballet des Aventures de Tancrede en la Forêt enchantée’ (1619)

The contribution of dance for propaganda purposes was taken for granted in Renaissance Europe.

In this talk, Professor Margaret M. McGowan explores what we know of choreography at this time, and the influences of Italian and French creators of ballet and studies the role of diplomacy and how, increasingly, dance became a vehicle for political strategies.

As the nature of dancing changed and became more complex, so its ability to express was increased and its effect on audiences was more powerful. This transformation is explored in detail through examples of court ballets, intermezzi and masques from the Early Modern period.





A recording of Margaret M. McGowan’s talk:


Margaret M. McGowan † (1931-2022) CBE, FBA, was Research Professor at the University of Sussex, and a major scholar of the intellectual, cultural and artistic concerns of early modern Europe, and of the interdisciplinary study of early modern festivals and dance.

She co-founded the Society for European Festivals Research and was co-general-editor, together with Margaret Shewring and Marie-Claude Canova-Green, of the ‘European Festival Studies, 1450–1700’ book series (Brepols).

Among her publications: l’Art du Ballet de cour, 1581-1643 (Paris: Centre national de recherche scientifique, 1963; re-ed. 1968); Montaigne’s Deceits (London: University of London Press, 1974); Ideal Forms in the Age of Ronsard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); The Vision of Rome in Late Renaissance France (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002); Dance in the Renaissance (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008); Dynastic Mariages 1612/1615 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013) and Festival and Violence: Princely Entries in the Context of War, 1480-1635 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2019); and with Margaret Shewring: Charles V, Prince Philip and the Politics of Succession: Festivities in Hainault and Mons, 1549 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020).

She gave the Leopold Delisle lectures in 2012, was awarded the Wolfson Prize in 2008, and the CBE in 1998, and became Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2020.