Being an Italian female dancer in C17 Europe: history, narrative & the construction of posterity in Barbara Campanini’s life

During the eighteenth century, the professional status of female dancers gradually sets in the theatrical institution. The taste of the public is involved in the construction of their image on stage and in society. In their careers, often characterized by an intense geographical and social mobility, they constantly reinvent and renegotiate their professional and artistic identity in changing cultural contexts.

Barbara Campanini, better known as La Barberina, is an example of this mobility. Daughter of an Italian female dancer, trained in Italy, after a visit to Paris under the protection of the Prince of Carignan, General Inspector of the Académie Royale de Musique, she is finally employed by Frederick II of Prussia. Throughout her intense career, she is noted for the masculine strength of her legs, for her prowess in jumping but also for her eventful private life, even coming to trouble European diplomacy.

Through the analysis of archival documents and iconography, this paper will strive to expose and discuss how La Barberina set about constructing her artistic and public image and reinventing herself by activating social networks, narratives of the self and a creative form of female subjectivity.

Marina Nordera
Symposium Title: 
Living, dancing, travelling, dying... 2013
Author affiliation: 
Department of Dance, Nice University, France