Swiss Performing
Arts Platform

The online platform currently comprises only part of the fonds and is steadily being expanded.

The platform was designed as a database for the collections of the three regional SAPA offices of Bern, Lausanne and Zurich to provide online access to the fonds of the SAPA Foundation.

Containing data on individuals, institutions and productions, as well as a wide range of archival documents, its primary function is to document the performing arts in their many facets and inherent ephemeral character. Functionality is intuitive, providing users with immediate entry to the wealth of material in the Foundation’s own collections.

The platform is based on a graph database and not only connects different types of collections, but also exchanges data with other information systems such as Wikidata. The data can be accessed from different perspectives and via various interfaces, by means of simple or complex search options and a SPARQL interface for applications in the field of digital humanities.

The current version of the database is available at

Further catalogues

Until the completion of the Swiss Performing Arts platform, other means of conducting searches are available. Please enquire at the respective SAPA office.

This platform allow you to view a part of our video fonds online. If you would like to view more archival fonds, please contact us.


Memoriav, the association for the preservation of the audiovisual heritage of Switzerland, supports SAPA in numerous projects with the objective of safeguarding the cultural heritage of the performing arts in photography, sound and video. Thanks to this excellent partnership, unique documents are able to be conserved for the benefit of future generations.

These documents are listed online in the SAPA databases, and also in Memoriav’s online database, Memobase:


This important reference work on the creation of theatre and dance in Switzerland, published in book form and online, was initiated and published by the Institute of Theatre Studies at the University of Bern. Its contents include indexes of key players in SAPA’s archival fonds on whom further material is available.

Theatre Encyclopaedia

The national inventory of Switzerland’s choreographic heritage lists localities and institutions that hold archives on the history of dance in Switzerland.

It is presented in the form of an online map:

Instructions for use

Click on the required search item in the menu on the left:

  • by place name
  • by name of archival fonds or collection

The individual entries contain the following information:

  • By place name: name and address of institution, description of fonds and collections, additional information, link to institution website
  • By name: name of fonds or collection, status, additional information, identifier, link to website, and name and address of institution

The map is regularly updated. If you know of any archives that hold fonds on dance creation in Switzerland, please contact us.

To the project

As a reference institution, the SAPA Foundation has set itself the goal of creating an overview of the archival fonds available in Switzerland on our country’s choreographic heritage and to provide detailed information about the individual collections and archives. Such an overall view enhances the visibility of the existing collections and facilitates the permanent preservation of the rich cultural heritage of dance in Switzerland and its accessibility to the public.

Between 2017 and 2018, the SAPA Foundation contacted 118 public institutions (national, cantonal and municipal archives and libraries) and 14 private institutions, of which 66% (67% public and 57% private) institutions responded, for which SAPA expresses its sincere gratitude.

The project aims to:

  • provide an overview of the choreographic heritage of Switzerland
  • evaluate the state of preservation of the archival fonds
  • acquire additional information on the archival fonds stored in the SAPA Foundation
  • inform the public and facilitate access to Switzerland’s dance heritage

SAPA would like to thank the following partners for their generous support: Ernst Göhner Stiftung / Fondation Coromandel / Société Suisse des Auteurs / Ars Rhenia Stiftung.


You can also find the International Repertory of Archives and Collections Related to Dance created by students of HEG, Geneva, on behalf of SAPA (formerly Swiss Dance Archives): click here to download.


The SAPA Foundation has bequeathed an extensive part of its specialist library to the University Library of Bern and the Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne and no longer maintains a specialist library.

The catalogues of these libraries can be consulted via the research portals Swisscovery and Renouvaud respectively.

Selected fonds related to the SAPA archival collections can be accessed as follows:

Bern: research and consultation at our office

Lausanne: research and consultation at our office and via Renouvaud

Journal fonds:

Journal fonds up to the end of 2020 are available for consultation at our Bern office.

Depending on the journal, please allow up to four working days for an appointment.

Overview of the journals available

The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.


The research platform covers around 475 Swiss libraries.


The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.

Consulting services

The research platform of the canton of Vaud also lists the holdings of the SAPA Lausanne office.


The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.

Consulting services


Focus of regional SAPA offices according to art form:


Media library: books, journals, audiovisual media
Archives: paper documents, photographs, objects
Special collections: paper documents, photographs, objects, audiovisual recordings

Lausanne: DANCE

Media library: books, journals, audiovisual media
Archives: paper documents, photographs, objects
Special collections: paper documents

Zurich: DANCE

Media library:  DVDs
Archives: audiovisual media (various recording materials)
Special collections: video recordings


All fonds

Focus of regional SAPA offices according to collection type:

Archives and special collections

The Bern office began its collecting activities in 1927, the year that the Swiss Society of Theatre Arts (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Theaterkultur) was founded.

The period after the Second World War then marked the beginning of a systematic collection policy that has been pursued to this day. Over the years to follow, the special collections on theatre making in Switzerland were to grow extensively, as did the contents of the archives, leading to the formation of the Swiss Theatre Collection foundation (Schweizerische Theatersammlung) in 1978. Material is collected on the basis of set criteria, and the scope of activity is steadily expanding.

All the items that are collected, documented and archived are materials and media chronicling the performing arts in Switzerland (Helvetica), and include press articles and publications, as well as indexes on individual artists, institutions and productions. The full spectrum of the performing arts is covered, with records from drama, musical theatre, dance, cabaret arts, puppet theatre, circus, variety shows, theatrical folklore and audio plays.

  • 222 estates (157 persons, 65 institutions)
  • 300 autographs
  • 35,500 photos/slides
  • 1,500 printed graphics
  • 8,095 posters
  • 11,878 video recordings
  • 2,079 audio recordings
  • 2,000 playbills
  • 843,353 press articles
  • 315 metres of print products from theatre-makers (programmes, flyers, etc.)
  • 306 theatre construction and stage set models
  • 5,300 stage set and costume designs
  • 180 string and hand puppets
  • 70 toy theatres
  • 200 masks

Searches can be made partially online, via the Swiss Performing Arts platform, or in the various databases at the Bern office:

  • catalogue of video media
  • catalogue of audio media
  • catalogue of professional theatre productions (60,697)
  • catalogue of amateur theatre productions (18,663)
  • plays printed in journals and play programmes

Other records are fully or partially available in digital form: – posters – stage set designs – stage set models – masks – toy theatres – graphics.

The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.

Consulting services

The SAPA Lausanne office collects, catalogues and conserves textual and visual documents, objects and textiles.

Originally, this office developed from the private collection of Jean Pierre Pastori; thanks to various donations, other fonds have been added over the years, including important estates from Maurice Béjart and Sigurd Leeder. The office currently houses some sixty fonds and collections on prominent figures in the world of Swiss dance, including choreographers, companies, dancers, project initiators, journalists, photographers, institutions and festivals.

Almost 260 linear metres of art archives, administrative archives and private archives are available to the public for research, education and outreach purposes and also serve as a source of inspiration for performing artists.

  • Textual sources: documents on the creation process of the works, correspondence, press materials, musical notations
  • Iconographic sources: photographs, drawings, etchings, paintings
  • Objects: stage accessories, personal objects
  • Textiles: costumes, costume accessories

The fonds can be explored via the Swiss Performing Arts platform or via its predecessor, scopeArchiv.


The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.

Consulting services

Films and videos stand at the heart of the activities of the SAPA Foundation’s Zurich office.

Over 3,000 video documents from around 200 national and international choreographers can be viewed here. They are listed in the online catalogue and are quick to locate.

These valuable fonds and collections hold choreographic works by numerous artists who have enrichened Swiss stages since the 1980s, including Sigurd Leeder, Heinz Spoerli, Maurice Béjart, Martin Schläpfer, Jean Deroc and the Swiss Chamber Ballet, Suzanne Perrottet, Cathy Sharp Ensemble, Cie Alias, Cie Drift, Cie Philippe Saire, Cie Fabienne Berger, ZOO/Thomas Hauert, Noemi Lapzeson, Anna Huber, Foofwa d’Imobilité, Gilles Jobin, Zimmermann & De Perrot and Flamencos en route.

A Vimeo film provides an overview of the Zurich collections.


The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches. In addition, a team of specialists is on hand to advise dance makers and other interested parties on the archiving of their work.

Consulting services

Media library

The Bern branch of the SAPA Foundation is home to the largest library dedicated to the performing arts in Switzerland. The library contains a total of 50,000 volumes and 63 subscribed journals.

Our collection specialises in:

  • literature relating to Swiss theatre and dance
  • biographies of prominent figures in theatre and dance
  • play scripts, including revisions, directors’ books and manuscripts from

At the end of summer 2018 we completed the project to re-catalogue and transfer a part of our archives to the Mittelstrasse Library. Thanks to our relationship to the University of Bern, our users benefit from longer and more flexible opening hours.

Over half the works are catalogued in swisscovery.


The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.

Consulting services

SAPA has approximately 10,000 books and newspaper clippings on a wide variety of topics related to dance and its associated fields.  

The media library is systematically structured and begins with thematic bibliographies, reference works and a number of encyclopaedias.

Another sector covers the history of dance. Many of our books on this subject are out of print, such as the works on the Dance of Death in Switzerland. The media library contains publications on all other conceivable dance styles: expressive dance, ballet, jazz, tap, dance theatre, disco and hip-hop, as well as traditional dances, ballroom dances and folk dances of various origins and works by famous dancers and choreographers.

The works of the Lausanne library are currently being re-catalogued in the Renouvaud library network.


The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.

Consulting services

The Zurich office offers VHS tapes and DVDs on Swiss and international dance creation for viewing on the premises – and in some cases to loan. A special focus lies on contemporary dance.

The works of the Zurich media library are currently catalogued in the scopeArchiv database.


The SAPA team is happy to assist with your searches.

Consulting services

Guidelines and documents

An important responsibility held by the SAPA Foundation is to make archivists aware of their role in the creation, preservation and transfer of their archives.

As a reference institution, SAPA issues recommendations based on its expertise in archiving and, most importantly, offers advisory services on how to manage audiovisual archives, as these require particular specialist knowledge. In addition, a number of online documents are available to the public.

The SAPA team is happy to provide advice by telephone or email.

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