2022, Retrieving Dance of the Past through Costume

Reconstructions and re-enactments of historical dance, in most cases, cannot do without the historically-looking clothing. The kind of costume, its design, materials and construction often depend on the artistic vision of the creators, on historical sources and also on available financial resources.

My presentation will investigate what happens when the reconstruction of stage dance is completed with the reconstruction of the costume in all its material and structural aspects – giving it not only a historical look, but historical materiality. Costume for dance on stage was a specific type of garment since the emergence of this performing arts form in the sixteenth century. It developed its proper rules, codes and functions; there were designers and makers who specialized in it.

I will first offer insights in how the costume corresponded to various dance genres during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, and present some of the costume sources we can work with. Then, I will present cases of experimental re-creation of dance costumes, and what can be learned through this method of research. In what consists the specificity of dance costume? How does the historically correct costume influence the physical posture and action of the performer? What is the effect of such costume on stage?


Petra Dotlačilová holds a PhD in Dance Studies from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (2016), and a PhD in Theatre Studies from Stockholm University (2020). She specializes in dance history and theatrical costume in Europe from 16th to 18th century. Particularly, she explores aesthetic and material properties of costumes, international transfers in design and relations between garments and movement practices.

She participated in the research projects Performing Premodernity at the Stockholm University and  Ritual Design for the Ballet Stage at Leipzig University. Within these projects, she participated in the organization of several workshops and collaborated at costume-making for historically informed performances of Pygmalion (2015, Český Krumlov, Stockholm/Riddarhuset), and Le Devin du village (2019, Stockholm/Confidencen).

In 2021 was awarded with the international postdoc grant of the Swedish Research Council, which supports her three-year research project “The Fabrication of Performance: Processes and Politics of Costume-Making in the 18th Century”, conducted in collaboration with Centre de musique baroque Versailles.