Research Perspectives on the Cultural and Visual History of Dance in the Middle Ages and Beyond

Alessandro Arcangeli, Licia Buttà


We propose to clarify what distinguishes a cultural history from other ways of
approaching the study of dance, as well as the specificity of the approach to dance with respect to that to other objects of inquiry. One of cultural history’s main characteristics is the attention paid to the forms of perception and the processes of signification of reality that connoted the women and men of the past; in our case, in an attempt to restore the significance that dance must have had for those who took part in it, but also for those who witnessed – or for some reason, did not participate, collaborate or assist to – the dance of others. Dance in images manifests the meanings that shaped the perception of the choreographic act, thus providing information on how to interpret the sacred space, and how a sense of community could be built among people who attended these performances. A cultural and visual history of the dance combines an analysis of the layers of meanings that have been deposited and transmitted via a vocabulary, and via a set of gestural schemata or formae.


Cultural history of dance, Dance iconography, Gesture, Social space, Ritual dance.

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