Dance, Performance and Politics

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

A talk by Margaret M. McGowan


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.

Dr Jennifer Nevile will respond to the talk, and Professor Marie-Claude Canova-Green will chair.


Attendance is free but booking is essential to receive a link to attend. This event has been postponed. Those who have registered will be contacted with a new date.

The participants:

Margaret M. McGowan CBE, FBA, Research Professor at the University of Sussex. Her research interests centre on intellectual, cultural and artistic concerns in early modern Europe. Her publications include: 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.

Dr Jennifer Nevile (Respondent) currently holds an honorary research position in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of NSW, Australia. Her research centres on theatrical and social dance in early modern Europe, and its relationship with other contemporary artistic practices and intellectual movements, including garden design, music, and fifteenth-century Italian humanism, as well as various aspects of danced spectacles, such as rehearsals (and disasters). Her research has appeared in the monographs The Eloquent Body: Dance and Humanist Culture in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Indiana University Press, 2004) and Footprints of the Dance: An Early Seventeenth-Century Dance Master’s Notebook (Brill, 2018), in addition to over thirty book chapters and journal articles.

Marie-Claude Canova-Green (Chair) is Deputy Director of the CCL and Professor of French at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has research interests in European Court entertainments and has edited a four-volume collection of seventeenth-century ballet libretti. She has also published monographs on Molière and early modern French drama. Her most recent edited collections are Writing Royal Entries in Early Modern Europe, with Jean Andrews (Brepols, 2013) and The Wedding of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, 1625. Celebrations and Controversy, with Sara Wolfson (Brepols, 2020). Her latest book, Faire le roi. L’autre corps de Louis XIII, came out in 2018 (Librairie Arthème Fayard). She has just completed an edition of the complete works of the French playwright Raymond Poisson for Éditions Garnier and is currently working on a monograph on Montrer la reine. Anne d’Autriche à la cour de France. She received the Palmes académiques in 2001.


The event will be recorded and a video will be posted on this page as soon as possible after the event.