AP PHOTOS: Italian ballroom dancers twirl during lockdown

ROME (AP) – Social distancing is generally not part of the lexicon of ballroom dancing. But in an industrial area on the outskirts of Rome, couples of all ages flip and flip on the dance floor, even in a pandemic, as ballroom dancers have been doing for decades across the world.

While much of Italy is stranded by coronavirus, with live music and theatrical performances banned, cinemas closed, and many limited sporting activities, competitive ballroom dancing is alive and well here, but with precautions.

The couples in the New Dancing Days hall are preparing for the Italian Championships in Rimini in July and are therefore allowed to continue practicing, given that the government considers their activity in the national interest. It is the same allowance that has allowed other federally recognized competitive athletes to continue training in Italy even during the latest round of virus-related shutdowns.

“Yes we can do it. Here we can keep dancing,” said Raffaella Serafini, 45, owner of New Dancing Days and 35-year veteran of competitive ballroom dancing.

In the huge hall with mirrors on the walls and multi-colored lights, couples wear masks during warm-ups and breaks, but are allowed to remove them while performing traditional dances or Latin dances. Most keep them anyway.

“It’s something beautiful for us because we’re older, but we can still put ourselves in the game,” 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 followed by the school and that participants strictly followed them.

The Italian Dance Sports Federation has decreed that 34 athletes are allowed to train at a school the size of New Dancing Days, recognizing that continuity in practice is needed. Currently 17 couples, ages 9 to 76, train up to five days a week.

From a vantage point above the dance floor, Serafini keeps an eye on his spinning students and shouts instructions at them. If she sees something wrong, she will stop the music, take to the dance floor, and demonstrate the correct way to take a step, pose, or spin.

“School is my great pride. When I see them on the dance floor, it’s like I’m there, ”she said.


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