Historic images of Balletto di Roma extracted from newsreels of the 1960s, restored and conserved in the archives of Istituto LUCE. In the opening photo: Paola Jorio.

Balletto di Roma celebrates sixty years of dance

Founded in 1960 by Franca Bartolomei and Walter Zappolini, Balletto di Roma is celebrating its 60th anniversary; sixty years of creativity, experimentation, new styles and currents which have contributed to the evolution and growth of Italian dance.

Generations of dancers at Balletto di Roma

For over six decades, Balletto di Roma has worked – and continues to work – with some of the greatest artists in the world of Italian and international dance. This happy encounter of styles and genres, original live music, costume and scenery design and story lines has enabled Balletto di Roma to create a repertoire of works ranging from classical and neoclassical ballets to productions exploring the many languages of contemporary dance.

Images of the company of Balletto di Roma – Bartolomei and Zappolini together with their close knit community of dancers – at its first home in via Dardanelli.

From the past to the present to the future

The history of Balletto di Roma –from 1960 to date – takes us from the blurry, black and white photos of the early years to the full colour, high definition experience of a present populated by a community of over one thousand people. This is the point of departure for Balletto di Roma today; a point of departure for a dance company whose aim is to transform the path outlined by the past into a highway to the future.

Young dancers from Balletto di Roma School of Dance recount their emotions, joys, fears and hopes for the future. Through the eyes of these pupils, it is clear to see how the teaching and artistic values upon which the school is founded are projected towards the future. Congratulations Balletto di Roma!

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The original deed of incorporation setting forth the founding principles of Balletto di Roma: the commencement of a story of the past, the present and the future.

23 February 1960

Balletto di Roma was officially established sixty years ago with the signing of the deed of incorporation on 23 February 1960.

The founders of Balletto di Roma

“Walter Zappolini was a young principal dancer at Teatro dell’Opera. Franca Bartolomei was looking for a dancer to perform the leading male role of a ballet she was preparing with the great choreographer Milloss, with whom she had already worked. She suggested Zappolini and, from then on, they never left one another’s side. United by a life project and deep agreement on the values and purposes of their art, they set up Balletto di Roma. The company debuted in concurrence with the Rome Olympics of 1960 and is still one of the most active companies in the world of Italian dance.”

Donatella Bertozzi
Journalist and dance critic – former student of Balletto di Roma

Performance of Aida at Terme di Caracalla with choreography by Franca Bartolomei, whose long career saw the choreography of over seventy ballets and operas

Images from the photographic archives of Franca Bartolomei and Walter Zappolini

Walter Zappolini was careful to conserve every photo, every newspaper article and even a number of props documenting of the work of Balletto di Roma. He was renowned for detailing suggestions and corrections to be given to his dancers in a leather bound notebook which he always kept to hand. A gentleman of dance, a strict yet exuberant teacher, he has left an immense collection of artefacts and images immortalizing his life together with Franca Bartolomei and the company of Balletto di Roma.

Rimani in contatto con il Balletto di Roma per aggiornamenti sulle prossime attività in programma

60th Anniversary of Balletto di Roma: the programme

Ever since its founding, Balletto di Roma has nurtured its Italian origins, proudly taking the values which inspired its foundation into Europe and throughout the world.

In order to mark its 60th anniversary, Balletto di Roma has set up an intense programme of initiatives celebrating the value of movement and the constant repositioning of the role of dance, of man and of the world. The aim of this programme is not only to celebrate and honour the company’s history but also to create a point of departure for future artistic developments.

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Balletto di Roma tours Italy and the world

GThe tour of Italian cities, which commenced at the beginning of 2020 with productions of Io, Don Chisciotte, the latest work by Fabrizio Monteverde, and the recently debuted Male Variations, a choreographic triptych for male dancers by Andrea Costanzo Martini and Itamar Serussi Sahar, will continue throughout the year. Simultaneously, the season of dance currently hosted by Teatri della Capitale group theatres in Rome will continue the programme which opened with Davide Bombana’s Arcaico at IUC – Istituzione Universitaria Concerti of La Sapienza University of Rome with Davide Valrosso’s Sogno, una notte di mezza estate at Teatro Vascello and Fabrizio Monteverde’s Io, Don Chisciotte at Teatro Quirino at the end of April. During the year, Balletto di Roma will also fulfill the dual objective of taking its original repertoire out into the world and bringing new stimuli and languages back to Italy. China and Brazil are the first countries to which Balletto di Roma will travel with numerous performances of Giulietta e Romeo.

New productions in 2020

Balletto di Roma’s longevity as an active dance company is, in many ways, due to its focus on continuous renewal, its promotion of the work of contemporary choreographers and its launching of the careers of new generations of dancers. Indeed, the company’s vast repertoire is enriched every year by new productions by both Italian and international choreographers. Among the new works in the 2020 programme are Andrea Costanzo Martini’s Première, inspired by the “desire for movement” as an individual feeling and a common need, and Il piccolo Re dei Fiori, based on a text by Květa Pacovská, choreographed by Valerio Longo and co-produced with Teatro Gioco Vita.

Promotion of new talent

On 16 April 2020, Teatro Palladium in Rome will host the world premiere of a new work choreographed by the young artists selected during Balletto di Roma’s Light on Dance programme. The aim of this programme is to promote research into contemporary dance by inviting young choreographers, dancers and artists from the fields of the performing arts and contemporary circus to work together with a view to creating new multi-discipline projects. Following a long selection procedure, which saw the participation of over forty candidates, the selection committee has chosen Nastja Bremec and Mychal Rynia, founders and choreographers of MN Dance Company (Slovenia), to choreograph a new work for the dancers of Balletto di Roma.

European projects

Balletto di Roma’s focus on exploring new environments – from both the geographic and the stylistic points of view – has led to its participation in numerous international exchange projects and especially the hosting of European dance ensembles. In 2018, Balletto di Roma commenced its participation in CLASH! When classic and contemporary dance collide and new forms emerge, a project set up together with Derida Dance Ltd. (BG), 420PEOPLE (CZ), Companhia de Dança de Almada (PT), La Sapienza University of Rome (IT) and the Polish Dance Theatre (PL), whose aim is to encourage the sharing of different approaches to teaching, programming and public relations in the world of dance. The activities of this project will continue in 2020 with Clash on Stage, an itinerant festival of dance, which will conclude with the performance of five new choreographies in a single evening. Inspired by the concept of “clashing” each company’s training, creative and production systems, Balletto di Roma’s participation in the project has seen a real and proper exchange of creativities with the Polish Dance Theatre. Indeed, Davide Valrosso, associate choreographer of Balletto di Roma, will soon be travelling to Poznań to create a new work with the dancers of the Polish Dance Theatre, while three dancers/choreographers from the Polish Dance Theatre come to Rome to direct the work of the dancers of Balletto di Roma. Simultaneously, the dance companies of Portugal, Czech Republic and Bulgaria will work with their own dancers on the creation of new works exploring the themes emerging from the shared theoretical and practical research. Clash on Stage will debut in Rome on 1 October 2020 and then travel through the various countries involved in the project.
Balletto di Roma is also the lead partner of UP2DANCE | Updating professional profiles towards contemporary dance, a project approved and co-financed by Europa Creativa and Erasmus+, which sees the Polish Dance Theatre (PL), Magenta Consultoria Projects SLU (ES), Art Link Foundation (BL), Companhia de Danca de Almada (PT), and ICK (NL) involved in the exchange of best practices at European level. The aim of this project is to define and develop the specific set of skills required of professional contemporary dancers in Europe.

Training, research and further study

In pursuit of its founding values, over the last 60 years Balletto di Roma has supported the world of dance, not only via the training of new generations of dancers and the promotion of young professionals, but also by ensuring a remarkable number of performances of high quality repertoire. Looking to the future, and taking on all the risks of its endeavours, the company is currently involved in a vast number of training, study and research initiatives, supported by various institutions, international partners and the scientific committee of La Sapienza University of Rome. Thanks to the work of the Balletto di Roma School of Dance, directed by Paola Jorio, many young artists have had the chance to participate in educational exchanges with leading European dance academies. These activities have included choreographic workshops with contemporary choreographers, cultural study experiences and opportunities for the guided appreciation of new performances, as well as new creative activities for the members of Balletto di Roma Kids. In an environment seeped in an ideal mixture of the past, the present and the future, Balletto di Roma School of Dance provides professional dance training which focuses on both the founding principles of the company and the study of the newest styles and languages.

As has come to be expected over the last eight years, Balletto di Roma School of Dance will also conclude this academic year with a Summer School experience; an intensive, five-week workshop for pupils from the school and other dance institutes directed by teachers and choreographers from some of the most prestigious international dance academies and companies.
During the rest of the year, Balletto di Roma School of Dance will continue to offer various opportunities for pupils from all over Italy to participate in open days, auditions (four dates in May, June and September) and masterclasses with teachers from the school in the presence of Director Paola Jorio.

Online archive

The celebration of the 60th anniversary of Balletto di Roma has also seen the creation of an online archive. Available for consultation via the Balletto di Roma website and social media, the aim of the archive is to offer the public at large a chance to appreciate the historic moments, documents and images which, over the last sixty years, have led to the creation of a precious artistic, cultural and historic heritage. Already available online are various Istituto Luce videos dating back to the 1960s showing the revolutionary aesthetic styles and dance techniques promoted by Balletto di Roma at the time. These clips from the past already hint at the future development of the work of Balletto di Roma, as elegant dancers in black and white evolve into full colour contemporary realities and Balletto di Roma continues to be home to a community of over one thousand people.


The original programme of a 1963 performance by Balletto di Roma of choreographies by Bartolomei and Zappolini, Giuseppe Urbani, and British choreographer Anton Dolin, and extracts from the classical repertoire. The programme notes by dance critic Elio Battistini refer to Balletto di Roma as the only Italian dance company able to keep alive “the flickering flame of passion for the Terpsichorean game”.