Many of William Shakespeare’s plays have dancing in them, but it can be quite challenging for modern-day directors, actors, and choreographers to know what to do with stage directions such as “They dance.” What dances might Shakespeare have had in mind when he called for dancing? How did audiences perceive those dances? Does it make sense to try and recreate historical dances in a particular production? If so, how might one go about doing that? If not, what other kinds of dance might work? What’s been done in notable stage and film versions? What are the consequences of eliminating a dance that Shakespeare specified, or of adding a dance into a scene where the script does not call for one? This project is dedicated to exploring these and related questions about Shakespeare and dance.
Even if you are not preparing to perform a play, students and ordinary readers can also benefit from a richer understanding of dance in Shakespeare’s plays. Dance sequences, whether called for by a stage direction or added by a director, contribute in important ways to the overall meaning and impact of the play. As even a cursory review of our video gallery shows, a stage direction for dance can be interpreted in vastly different and highly creative ways. In addition to providing visual and auditory (musical) pleasure for the audience, particular choreographic choices inevitably emphasize themes, reveal character, and provide insight into the director’s interpretation of the play.
Consequently, this site is dedicated to performers and producers grappling with these and other questions about Shakespeare and dance and to readers who would like to think more deeply about the role of dance in the plays. The authors and contributors to the site include Shakespeare scholars, theatre and dance historians, performers, and producers. (See Contributors.) For more information, or to sign up for our e-newsletter, the Shakespeare and Dance Dispatch, please Contact Us.