The “great leap” – from earth to heaven

Nowadays we refer to theatre ‘costume’, happily using the same term when speaking about the clothes worn in the past, despite the fact people never perceive their everyday clothes to be ‘costume’ How did theatre costume and dance interact during the 18th century?  Which element influenced which?  How did the costumes on stage reflect or deviate from the clothes worn by the audience who watched them and why?  The century began with the influence of Louis XIV and his demand for good dancers to perform with him or entertain him at court. One hundred years later dances and costumes were designed specifically for the now exclusively professional dancers who would exhibit them on stage. This paper will examine the evolution within this context of how the form and cut of court clothes was intrinsically linked with the style and structure of dance through the restrictions imposed on human movement. It will show how the technique and style of dance was influenced by fashion which, in its turn, was influenced by the demands of the professional dancer, necessitating an evolution in design and couture which moved fashion at court and on stage in different directions.

Mary Collins
Joanna Jarvis
Symposium Title: 
Dancing in the theatre of Europe in the long 18th century 2012