The V&A’s Theatre and Performance collection encompasses the history of dance from the 17th century to the present day. It includes many different forms of dance from music hall to ballet and also covers the history of Black and South Asian dance in the UK.
From the early 20th century dancers, especially in Germany and America, experimented with freer, more personal ways of moving. They rejected the rigidity of classical ballet. This style of movement is often referred to as ‘modern dance’, a term which encompasses a wide range of styles and techniques.
South Asian Dance in the UK
Dance in India was for thousands of years associated with Hindu temples and the temple arts. Dancers were known as Devadasis (temple dancers) or Bayadères. Dance was a sign of prosperity for the temples and the stories told by the dancers were used to educate ordinary people in the ways of the gods.
Fred and Adele Astaire
Fred Astaire (1899–1987) was one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century. He and his sister Adele (1896–1981) were child stars in American Vaudeville before moving into musicals in their late teens. They became major Broadway stars and then in 1923 appeared for the first time in Britain, where they were an immediate hit.
Ballet dates back to the royal courts of 17th-century Europe. Styles of choreography have changed radically over the years, through the Romantic, Classical and 20th-century ballet periods. The V&A holds a large collection of ballet-related items in its Theatre & Performance collections including set designs, costumes, production photographs and orchestral scores.
Theatre & Performance
The Theatre and Performance collection was founded in the 1920s when a private collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the Museum. Since then the collection has continued to grow and has provided a home for many other significant objects and archives. All areas of the live performing arts are represented in the collections, documenting both current practice and the history of the performing arts in the UK.