Marina Rossi, Rope Dancer (fl. 1768 – 1776)

Rope Dancer
Signora Marina Rossi, a rope dancer and contortionist performed for twelve nights in Dublin during the early part of 1776. She was engaged by Sadler’s Wells as a rope dancer and flautist in the April of 1768 following on from performances in Bristol in the February of the same year. She played Colombine in pantomime and was well acquainted with the mandolin and the violin. But descriptions of her Dublin performances and the further displays of her many talents have survived thanks to Faulkner’s Dublin Journal:

Thursday 18 Jan 1776
The first part of the entertainment was Artaxerxes followed by Signora Rossi –

‘Between the play and the farce will be exhibited the amazing performances of Signora Marina Rossi, who has had the honour to perform before several monarchs in Europe, with great applause, the most surprising feats on rope; she will play the violin on the rope, in six different positions equally neat and agreeable; she dances with or without the pole, and cut papers as well on the rope as any dancer can on the ground; she plays on two instruments (never seen here) at the same time on the rope, and performs many feats with two flags, far superior to any yet exhibited in Europe. Her young daughter will likewise perform several surprising and amazing feats standing on a table, etc.’

Then on Monday the 5th February 1776 the FDJ had this to say:
‘After which the performances of Marina Rossi, who, this night only, will dance on the tight rope with her legs bound with fetters and also dance on the rope with eggs under her feet without breaking them, and perform several new feats.’

And finally after a performance of Lionel and Clarissa, and Comus on Friday 9th February 1776, Rossi really pushed the bar higher:

‘Equilibres: The whole to conclude with the surprising performances of Signora Marina Rossi, who will dance five different dances on the tight rope, and also on the rope blindfolded in a sack.’

Sad to say I couldn’t find the performance of paper cutting while playing a violin, while blindfolded in sack, dancing on rope with eggs under her feet…


  • Absolutely love it! What a great find. Is the painting of Signora Rossi, or of another ropedancer? Who is the artist? That’s a new image to me – so much wonderful detail.

  • Reply July 1, 2014

    MJ Holman

    I found the painting in The Met – – it’s by Leonard Defrance. It would be nice to think it was Signora Rossi, but alas we don’t know. I was thrilled to find it though. After I had researched her, my immediate thought was, ‘What did she wear?’ – this almost answers that question. This could of course be her table dancing daughter after she had progressed to the rope!

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