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 become 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.