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POSTPONED: Research Colloquium: Joseph Fort

May 12, 2020 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm


Joseph Fort (King’s College, London) | Who Danced the Minuet in 1790s Vienna?

The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Annabelle Page and George Haggett organise the series. Presentations are followed by discussion and a drinks reception. Students, staff, and the general public are warmly encouraged to attend.


Although the extent to which dance suffused social life in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Vienna has long been acknowledged, little is known about the occasions and practices that shaped this dance culture. Confusion and disagreement still surrounds the minuet, even over the question of just who danced it. (Between Haydn scholars, for example, David Wyn Jones claims that ‘all levels of society’ danced the minuet, while Melanie Lowe holds that it remained the exclusive preserve of the nobility.) In my PhD thesis (Harvard, 2016) I advanced an initial claim that ‘by the final decade of the eighteenth century a large portion of the bourgeoisie embraced the minuet, knew the steps for the dance, and performed it frequently’. In re-working this material for a forthcoming book, I now attempt to paint a more nuanced picture of minuet dancing in late-eighteenth-century Vienna, and in this colloquium will test much of this new research.

A recent research sabbatical has presented the opportunity to return to archival sources, many of which shed light on the dancing culture of 1790s Vienna, and this presentation will focus on insights gleaned from these. It will consider changing legislation that opened up the city’s public dance halls to a wider population, and ticket lists that show attendance at the balls. It will explore accounts of dance events noted in personal journals, travel accounts, and newspaper reports, and more technical descriptions offered in contemporaneous dance treatises. Regarding dance tuition, city records of dancing masters will be discussed, as well as newspaper advertisements and auto-biographical accounts of lessons. I will argue that these sources show the minuet to have formed a customary and expected part of the education and entertainment for certain, defined sectors of the Viennese bourgeoisie, as well as for the nobility. Crucially, I will also show that these are the same people who typically attended public concerts, where they would encounter the ‘concert’ minuet of symphonies and quartets in bodies trained in the movements of the dance. In closing, I will briefly suggest ways in which embodied knowledge of the danced minuet might inform listeners’ engagement with the concert minuet.


May 12, 2020
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Denis Arnold Hall, Faculty of Music
St Aldate's
Oxford, OX1 1DB
01865 276125


Faculty of Music
01865 (2)76133