Saturday, October 3, 2009

When peasants go dancing

I do not know exactly how Italian community life works and whether you join evening classes in stone polishing, English or ballroom dancing, but I have repeatedly seen public places being taken over by a group of happy hobby dancers.

It usually happens Saturday or Sunday evening at pizzerias with live music and outdoor seating. Suddenly you notice that the guests at all the other tables are not ordering neither Margheritas, nor wine and water. They just sit in the darkness on the restaurant's white plastic chairs, beating the rhythm with their high heeled gold sandals or newly shined patent leather shoes. At a sign from the keyboard player, they all get up and start to dance Latin, jitterbug, waltz or polka. They are actually quite good at it, so amateurs, who only know the steps from television, are quickly swept away. You end up feeling like an underdressed and uninvited spectator to the annual ball at the dancing school.

The weirdest impromptu dance performance I ever saw took place at a pizzeria in the mountains of Calabria last year. The floor of the restaurant was occupied by huge sofas, encircled by tables for eating guests. While the owner was getting the Hammond organ going, 20-30 short and work worn men and women with grey black clothes and rough hands entered the premises, and after a couple of subdued pop songs, they turned up the volume and the accordion, and suddenly all the peasants were jumping up and down in a high impact sort of line dance. Sometimes one or the other dancer dropped down in a sofa to regain his or her breath, but after a few minutes they were back on the floor, sweating and swirling in a pattern I – for one - could not quite decipher.

That is one way to spend Saturday evening;-)

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