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McCleave, Sarah. "What place for a woman? Dancing in London’s theatres circa 1770–1810."

McCleave, Sarah. "What place for a woman? Dancing in London’s theatres circa 1770–1810." In Performing Arts in Changing Societies: Opera, Dance, and Theatre in European and Nordic Countries around 1800, edited by Randi Margrete Selvik, Svein Gladsø, and Anne Margrete Fiskvik, 128-144. London, New York: Routledge, 2020.

[This chapter] gives an overview of theatres and types of theatrical entertainment appealing to a wide public before outlining the opportunities of female dancers and choreographers in the principal London theatres. Many dancers with various skills and competences were employed. French dancing culture had a strong impact. McCleave describes entertainment at various theatres and the degree to which dance and/or acrobatics were included. Female dancers were generally fewer than men, with less opportunities, and careers depending on their status within the profession and the conditions of their personal lives. Familial circumstances were important. Some marriages furthered female careers, others were detrimental, and unmarried dancers could have precarious lives. Female dancers often combined dancing with singing and/or acting and were employed at several theatres. Only five were choreographers, none British born. Foreigners were often better trained, more experienced, and got more prominent dancing roles. While principal foreigners at the opera enjoyed good appraisals and high salaries, immigrant danseuses in popular entertainment had lower status. Around 1800 a formal ‘serious’ dancing style gave way to the new aesthetics of sentimentalism and a more pre-romantic ideology of delicateness and natural feelings.

Year of publication: 2020

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