The Dance of Death in Image and Experience (Public talk, Hexham, 22nd October)


A close up of a person wearing a medieval skeleton mask

Close up of one of the skeletons from the dance of death in The Sacred and the Profane

Dare you dance with death? Join Professor Barbara Ravelhofer, from the Records of Early English Drama North East project, as she leads you through the history of this medieval tradition. This free public talk takes place in Hexham Abbey, home of some unique paintings of the dance of death, on 22nd October at 16.00.

The Dance of Death was a phenomenon that emerged in fifteenth-century visual culture and endured for centuries all over Europe. The grim reaper could be seen dragging people of all ages and classes off in a reluctant dance: a popular subject in engravings, woodcuts, and wall paintings. The Hexham panels are a rare surviving English example. Some evidence suggests that the Dance of Death may have been more than a gruelling image. Was it ever performed? Dogged by the question, a university research team staged an actual Dance of Death on the green at Durham Cathedral. Expect to hear more about dance, music, costumes – and audience reaction!

You can see a re-enactment of the dance of death in this performance of The Sacred and the Profane, recorded in Durham in July 2016 as part of Theatrum Mundi.

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