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Moving to the Music: Song and Dance in Antiquity

MOISA affiliated panel, SCS 2020
Moving to the Music: Song and Dance in Antiquity

Music and dance were integrally linked with one another in antiquity: from the ritual choruses of archaic Greece to the pantomime performances of imperial Rome, musicians and dancers worked in close collaboration. Ancient Greek abounds with inclusive and flexible terminology for song-and-dance (mousikē, molpē, choreia), and some of these terms enter into the Latin literary tradition in dynamic and distinct ways (cf. Curtis 2017). Greek and Roman art, for its part, displays a keen fascination in playing with the intricate ways both human and divine dancers could move their bodies in response to music. Inspired by the growing interest in both Greek and Roman dance (see select bibliography), this panel aims to explore how attention to corporeality can enrich and complicate our understanding of ancient music, its performance, and its effect upon both the dancers and their audience.

We invite papers that address the relationship between music and movement, the importance of the body (or bodily response) to vocal and instrumental performance, the visual depiction of dance, the ephemerality of dance and music, both in actual performance and in literary and visual representations, the role of music and dance in religious ritual, and the methodological considerations relevant to the study of topics like meter, rhythm, and musical embodiment. Above all, we ask whether and how the study of dance should be separated from the study of music, and we seek to highlight the unique insights gained by examining these practices together.

In an effort to showcase the best papers and the most innovative research in the field of ancient music, we also welcome abstracts that deal with interdisciplinary aspects of Greek and Roman music and its cultural heritage within the framework of the panel theme.

Abstracts for 20-minute papers to be presented at the 2020 SCS annual meeting should observe the instructions for the format of individual abstracts that appear on the SCS web site. The deadline for submission is February 10, and all prospective presenters should be SCS members in good standing at the time of submission. Please address your abstract to Sarah Olsen ( and any questions related to the panel to either Sarah Olsen or Carolyn Laferrière ( In accordance with SCS regulations, all abstracts for papers will be read anonymously by two referees.

Select Bibliography

Alonso Fernández, Zoa. 2015. “Docta saltatrix: Body Knowledge, Culture, and Corporeal Discourse in Female Roman Dance.” Phoenix69: 304-33.

———. 2016. "Choreography of Lupercalia: Corporeality in Roman Public Religion.”  Greek and Roman Musical Studies 4: 311-32.

Ceccarelli, Paola. "Dancing the Pyrrhichē in Athens." In Music and the Muses: The Culture of 'Mousikē' in the Classical Athenian City, edited by Penelope Murray and Peter Wilson, 92-117. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

———. "Circular Choruses and the Dithyramb in the Classical and Hellenistic Period: A Problem of Definition." In Dithyramb in Context, edited by Barbara Kowalzig and Peter Wilson, 153-70. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Curtis, Lauren. 2017. Imagining the Chorus in Augustan Poetry.Cambridge.

Gianvittorio, Laura, ed. 2017. Choreutika: Performing and Theorising Dance in Ancient Greece. Pisa.

Hall, Edith, and Rosie Wyles, eds. 2008. New Directions in Ancient Pantomime. Oxford.

Lada-Richards, Ismene. Silent Eloquence: Lucian and Pantomime Dancing.  London: Duckworth, 2007.

Lonsdale, Steven. 1993. Dance and Ritual Play in Greek Religion. Baltimore, MD.

Macintosh, Fiona., ed. 2010. The Ancient Dancer in the Modern World: Responses to Greek and Roman Dance. Oxford.

Naerebout, F.G. 1997. Attractive Performances: Ancient Greek Dance: Three Preliminary Studies. Amsterdam.

Peponi, Anastasia-Erasmia. 2007. “Sparta's Prima Ballerina: Choreiain Alcman's Second Partheneion(3 PMGF). CQ57: 351-62.

———. "Choreiaand Aesthetics in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo: The Performance of the Delian Maidens (Lines 156-164)." CA 28, no. 1 (2009): 39-70.

———. 2015. “Dance and Aesthetic Perception.” In Pierre Destrée and Penelope Murray (eds.), A Companion to Ancient Aesthetics, Malden, MA: 204-17.

Poignault, Rémy, ed. Présence de la danse dans l'Antiquité, présence de l'Antiquité dans la danse: Actes du colloque tenu à Clermont-Ferrand du 11 au 13 décembre 2008, Caesarodunum. Paris: Centre de recherche A. Piganiol-Présence de l'antiquité, 2013.

Schlapbach, Karin. 2018. The Anatomy of Dance Discourse: Literary and Philosophical Approaches to Dance in the Later Graeco-Roman World. Oxford.

Shapiro, H. A. "Dance." ThesCRA, 299–343. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.

Smith, Tyler Jo. 2010. Komast Dancers in Archaic Greek Art.Oxford.

Webb, Ruth. 2008. Demons and Dancers: Performance in Late Antiquity.Cambridge, MA.

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