Dancing Master Extraordinaire.
Guglielmo Ebreo is the best known dancing master of the fifteenth century, owing to the survival of seven manuscripts containing versions of his dance treatise De pratica seu arte tripudii (On The Practice or Art of Dancing), as compared to one copy each of the only other treatises from the fifteenth century written by Domenico da Piacenza and Antonio Cornazano. In the early 1460s, while Guglielmo Ebreo (William the Jew) was in the employ of the Sforza court in Pesaro and was a frequent visitor at the Sforza court in Milan, he decided to convert to Christianity and took the name Ambrosio after St. Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan.
An Honored Career.
Guglielmo and his brother Giuseppe (also a dancing master) were born in Pesaro (central Italy), the sons of Moses of Sicily, who for a time was dancing master at that court. Quite a bit is known about Guglielmo's career, thanks to a number of surviving letters he wrote to various courts, and especially to an autobiographical list that he appended to one of the manuscripts of his dance treatise, describing thirty events in which he took part. His career as a dancing master took him to a number of the finest courts in Italy where he was valued for his ability as a dancer, dance teacher, and choreographer. In addition to the Sforza families in Pesaro and Milan, he served the Montefeltro in Urbino, the Gonzaga in Mantua, King Ferdinand I in Naples, and the Medici in Florence. The esteem in which he was held is attested to by his elevation to Knight of the Golden Spur in Venice in 1469 by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, an honor he shared with Domenico da Piacenza, and one that was bestowed only rarely on artists.
Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro, De pratica seu arte tripudii; On the Practice or Art of Dancing.
Ed. and trans. Barbara Sparti (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).