Ballets, balls and parties in the correspondence of brothers Pietro and Alessandro Verri

In my paper I would like to present the social and theatrical life of Milan and Rome in the late 18th century through the eyes of the brothers Pietro and Alessandro Verri. They were important personalities of northern Italy in the 2nd half of 18th century and they brought to Milan the new thoughts of the Enlightenment of the French and English philosophers. They wrote about philosophy, economics, politics, history and Alessandro was also interested in literature  and theatre.

Nevertheless, from the selected letters emerges that they were also active participators of the social and cultural life of their cities, they were going to see opera and ballet performances (Pietro Verri offers  interesting  reflection  of  ballet-pantomimes  by  J.-G.  Noverre and G. Angiolini), attended masqued balls, private parties and other festivities. Dance, either social or theatrical (often both of them) was an inseparable part of all these events.

The selected letters are from the years between 1771 and 1781, period in which Pietro lived in Milan and Alessandro in Rome – that offers us interesting comparison of different style of entertainment in these two cities. Their description of performances, balls and parties is very detailed and reveals interesting and sometimes amusing facts from the social life of the higher classes in the late 18th century, where the dance – in different forms – was indeed omnipresent.


Petra Dotlačilová graduated from the Italian-Czech Lyceum and the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University, Prague. Currently she studies the doctoral programme in Dance Studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In 2009/2010 she spent a year as an Erasmus student in France (Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand, Université Paris X Nanterre - Paris), during which she helped organise the Dance Festival ZOOOUM #1 Evénement Danses Contemporaines. In October 2010 she participated in the Paris International Conference dedicated to Jean- Georges Noverre and presented a paper on his influence on Czech ballet in the 18th century. She also took part in the Erasmus programmes on Dance Movement of Past and Present (IPEDAM) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Her research specialization is 18th century ballet in the Czech Republic, France and Italy; she is working on analyses of theoretical texts and ballet librettos from this period, and has published in several dance and musical periodicals and anthologies (Tanec a společnost, Živá hudba, Musicorum). In 2013 her master’s dissertation was published in Prague under the title Vývoj baletu-pantomimy v osvícenské Evropě. She is a regular reviewer of ballet and dance performances for the internet dance magazine Taneční


Petra Dotlačilová
Symposium Title: 
Dancing for Anniversaries and Occasions: Chamber, Court, Theatre & Assembly 2015
Author affiliation: 
Academy of Performing Arts, Prague