Places to Go, Objects to See

Getting wind of exhibitions on dancers and dance history can be a tricky business. Exhibitions are often unexpected, small, overshadowed by bigger events, and of very limited duration! But around the world there are a handful of institutions where, with half an ounce of luck, you’ll always find an exhibition with something relevant to ballet’s history on display.

Chip in with a comment if you know of others!

Victoria and Albert Museum, London UK

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) holds an extensive collection of ballet-related items in including early prints, costumes and costume illustrations, set designs, documents, production photographs and orchestral scores. The Theatre and Performance collections were founded in the 1920s when a private collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the Museum. Today, the collections incorporate items that were formerly housed at the V&A Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.

The V&A hosts regular exhibitions on ballet, and includes dance-related items in its theatre and performance galleries. Check the museum’s current exhibitions prior to visiting. Admission to the Museum is free, but entry fees may be charged for special events. The V&A’s collections can be searched online, and the Museum offers a wealth of dance and theatre content on its website.


White Lodge Museum, Richmond Park (Greater London) UK  – NOW CLOSED

The White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre was the first dedicated ballet museum in the UK. It was housed within White Lodge, which is also the home of The Royal Ballet Lower School. In 2015 changes to government funding saw the museum close. However, press releases issued the Royal Ballet School Collections remain accessible through the Archives Hub network and a new online timeline.”


Royal Opera House, London UK

Costumes from Le Biche and Manon on display in the Royal Opera House foyer.

London’s Royal Opera House (ROH) has its own archive dedicated to preserving materials associated with its opera and ballet companies, and the early theatre history of the Covent Garden site. The collection reflects the range of activities undertaken by different departments working in the theatre. Items include set models, performance records, production records and designs, costumes and historic equipment, posters and administrative documents. The collection also incorporates a number of personal archives donated by artists and supporters.

Royal Opera House Collections manages a constantly changing programme of exhibitions at the ROH as well as touring exhibits. Each season, between September and August, there are two main exhibitions displayed in the costume cases and the Amphitheatre Gallery for approximately six consecutive months each. A series of smaller Spotlight Exhibitions fill some of the wall cases and foyer areas. These can be visited during normal daytime opening hours and by ticket holders prior to performances. If you are planning to make a special visit, please contact the ROH in advance to ensure that the front of house spaces are open.


National Museum of Dance, New York USA

The National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame was established in 1986. It is the only museum in America—and one of the few in the world—that is dedicated entirely to the art of dance. The Museum is located in the former Washington Bathhouse, a historic building in the Saratoga Spa State Park. Its archives house a growing collection of photographs, videos, costumes, documents, biographies and artifacts that honor all forms of dance throughout history.

The Museum hosts a variety of rotating and permanent exhibitions, and has a Resource Room open to the public, which offers thousands of books, periodicals, and print items for dance research. In addition, the museum campus includes the Lewis A. Swyer Studios, used for master classes, lecture/demonstrations, residencies, and other programs. The Swyer Studios also house the Museum’s very own dance school, the School of the Arts, which offers dance classes to all ages, levels, and interests. Check the Museum’s website for visitor information, details of its Summer and Winter opening hours, and current admission charges.


New York Public Library, New York USA

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library (NYPL) is the largest and most comprehensive archive in the world devoted to the documentation of dance. Chronicling the art of dance in all its manifestations—ballet, ethnic, modern, social, and folk—the Dance Division is part museum, part library, part film production center, and part consulting service to the professional dance community. It is actively engaged in gathering diverse written, visual and aural resources to ensure the continuity of its dance history holdings.

The Dance Division houses a wealth of treasures, ranging across film and audio recordings, early prints, posters, photographs and costume designs. It also home to more than 1 million manuscript items, including Madame Pompadour’s personal copy of libretti for ballet divertissements performed at Versailles! The Dance Division regularly selects from its holdings to mount thematic, biographical, or historical exhibitions. Past exhibitions have explored such subjects as ‘Music, Dance and the French Revolution’ and ‘Four Decades of the New York City Ballet.’

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division is housed on the third floor of the NYPL for the Performing Arts, located in the heart of the Lincoln Center complex on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. For visitor information and details of current exhibitions, contact the Dance Division via the NYPL’s website.


Dansmuseet, Stockholm SWEDEN

Sweden’s Dansmuseet was established in 1953 by Rolf de Maré, and art collector and joint founder of the Ballets Suédois. De Maré’s extensive archive of materials relating to the Ballets Suédois and dance outside Europe originally formed the core of the museum’s collections. Today, the museum is dedicated to world dance with important collections of European, Asian and African dance artefacts.

Among the treasures of the Dansmuseet are its fine collection of Ballets Russes designs and costumes, the Taglioni Collection of 19th century engravings, and Belle Époque dance posters. Apart from permanent displays, there are regular temporary exhibitions and the museum hosts a variety of film events, live performances and activities throughout the year. After several moves, the Dansmuseet is now located Drottninggatan 17. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Admission fees apply. Consult the museum’s website for current information.


Aleksei Bakhrushin Theatre Museum, Moscow RUSSIA

Founded in 1894 by wealthy industrialist and theatre enthusiast, Aleksei Bakhrushin, the Theatre Museum is the stronghold of Russia’s theatrical heritage. Its collections include costumes, designs, photographs, personal items and ephemera associated with all the theatrical arts—drama, opera, ballet and puppetry. As well as permanent displays, there are temporary exhibitions and a range of events held throughout the year.

The Theatre Museum is housed in Bakhrushin’s neo-Gothic mansion on the north side of Paveletskaya pl., and also administers a number of smaller sites including the museum-apartment of celebrated Soviet ballerina, Galina Ulanova. Currently there is no English-language labelling of items displayed in the Theatre Museum, nor does the museum have an English-language website. However Google doesn’t do too bad a job at translating and travel websites may also be of assistance. Admission fees apply and opening hours should be checked prior to visiting. Contributions of additional information about this venue are welcome—please email Vintage Pointe.


St Petersburg State Museum of Music and Theatre, St Petersburg RUSSIA

Located in the historic Imperial Theatre precinct in St Petersburg’s Ostrovsky Square, the Museum of Music and Theatre preserves costumes, manuscripts, designs and artefacts associated with some of Russia’s most celebrated theatrical artists. Only a fraction of the museum’s vast collections are displayed in its three galleries, although this small venue also coordinates a number of other sites including the Museum of Music at the Sheremetyev Palace.

The collection includes items associated with Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Mikhail Fokine and Vaslav Nijinsky. The museum’s main exhibit charts the history of Russian theatre from its beginnings to the mid twentieth century, and temporary exhibitions are also held during the year. The museum currently has a partial English-language website. Check the museum’s site or travel websites for current details of admission charges and opening hours.

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