The Early Dance Lecture 2010

Barbara Sparti

Dance historian, dancer, teacher & choreographer


The Italian Tradition of Pantomimic Ballet

Barbara Sparti will trace the origins of the 15th century Italian moresca in the revival of ancient Roman pantomime and will explore its presence in both spectacular court entertainments and  those by popular urban companies in the streets of Rome, and its reappearance in 18th century Venice.  Moresca meant sword dances as well as pantomime-ballet and was later synonymous with intermezzi and mattachins.  The tradition of the Italian dancer-mimes, considered “inimitable” by John Weaver, continued through the “heroic pantomimic ballets” of the late 18th century and even into 19th century ballet.


Barbara Sparti is a dance historian specializing in 15th-17th century Italian dance. She founded and directed the company ‘Gruppo di Danza Rinascimentale’ (1975-1988) which performed in concerts, festivals, exhibitions and conferences throughout Italy and Europe.  She has choreographed operas and plays by Caccini, Cavalieri, Gagliano, Monteverdi, Goldoni and Ruzzante for stage and TV.  Since 1973 she has been teaching practical courses in Italy, Europe, North America, Japan, and Israel.

She was “Distinguished Visiting Professor” at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1990 and has also lectured and choreographed at University of California at Santa Cruz (2000), in Israel (1997) and at Princeton (in residence in 2002).    Her edition and English translation of Guglielmo Ebreo’s 1463 dance treatise was first published by Oxford University Press in 1993.  She wrote the introduction to a facsimile edition of Lutio Compasso’s Ballo della gagliarda (Firenze 1560), as well as for that of the treatise (1614) by Ercole Santucci (Olms, 2004).  She has also published various articles on Italian Renaissance and Baroque dance in specialized journals (such as Early Music, Studi Musicali, Musica Disciplina, La Danza Italiana, Imago Musicae, Dance Chronicle, Dance Research, Early Music History), focusing on such questions as dance music, improvisation and ornamentation, iconography, dance sources, Jewish dance-masters and ‘Jewish dance’, the socio-economic, political, and aesthetic contexts, the multi-faceted “moresca” and mattaccino, and dance in 17th-century opera.

19th February 2010

7.15 p.m.

The Art Workers Guild

6 Queen Square



For further information, please contact

Sian Jones (01227  462871)  or  Barbara Segal (020 7700 4293)