ROME (AP) – Social distancing is rarely part of the lexicon of ballroom dancing. But in an industrial area on the outskirts of Rome, couples of all ages go round and round the dance floor, even through a pandemic, just as ballroom dancers have done for decades around the world.
While much of Italy is locked in by the coronavirus, with live music and theater performances banned, cinemas closed, and many limited sporting activities, competitive ballroom dancing is alive and well here, albeit with caution.
Couples in the New Dancing Days room are preparing for the Italian Championship in Rimini in July and as such can continue to practice, as the government considers their activity to be in the national interest. It is the same allocation that has allowed other federally recognized competitive athletes to continue training in Italy even during the latest round of virus-related closures.
“Yes we can. We can keep dancing here,” said Raffaella Serafini, the 45-year owner of New Dancing Days and a 35-year veteran of competitive ballroom dancing.
In the huge hall with mirrored walls and multi-colored lights, couples wear masks during warm-ups and breaks, but are allowed to remove them while performing traditional Latin or ballroom dancing. Most keep them on anyway.
“It is a beautiful thing for us because we are older, but we can still get involved,” said Franco Cauli, a 70-year-old dancer who along with his 74-year-old partner trains for a competition at the end of April.
He said he felt safe with the health protocols taken by the school and says the participants rigorously adhere to them.
The Italian Dance Sports Federation has decreed that 34 athletes can train in a school the size of New Dancing Days, recognizing that continuity in practice is necessary. There are currently 17 couples, ages nine to 76, who train up to five days a week.
From a vantage point above the dance floor, Serafini watches over her spinning students and yells instructions at them. If he sees something wrong, he will stop the music, go down on the dance floor, and demonstrate the correct way to take a step, pose, or turn.
“The school is my great pride. When I see them on the dance floor, it’s like I’m there, ”he said.
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