The Dance Department was established as an autonomous section of the Biennale di Venezia in 1999, and Carolyn Carlson was appointed director. Before then, the Dance shows were part of the programmes of the Music Department. Between 1999 and 2002, the shows were part of thematic sections taking place from May to October; in that period, the term ‘festival’ was not used to denote the programme, and was taken up again from 2003 onwards.
The Biennale Danza has soon established as one of the most significant activities within the Biennale di Venezia. After the four-year term with Carolyn Carlson, subsequent directors included Frédéric Flamand and Karole Armitage, who each directed one edition of the International Festival of Contemporary Dance in 2003 and 2004, Ismael Ivo (2005-2012), and Virgilio Sieni (2013-2016).