Because of COVID-19, Italian dancers’ work has abruptly stopped. In order to underline this difficult moment and his forced absence from the stage, global dance icon Roberto Bolle grew a beard: “I keep my beard to mark this different time,” he declared. His beard is a symbol of quarantine, and a novelty for his Italian audience. There is now no chance of seeing him dance; Roberto Bolle and Friends, one of his most popular shows, was programmed at the Arena Opera Festival on July 20th and 21st. It has been canceled but rescheduled for next year.

Roberto Bolle at the Arena in Verona. Press Photo.

However, there’s an opportunity to see Bolle and his beard with comedian, Virginia Raffaele, in a video online. The pair created a digital dance using two smartphones. In their own homes, they were able to perfectly coordinate their movements, giving the impression they are making eye contact with each other. The end result is a great version of the famous sequence between Uma Thurman and John Travolta in the movie, Pulp Fiction. “The aim was to invite everyone to keep the right distance between each other in a witty and non-distressing way,” Bolle said. This video also has a charitable aim – at the end of the song, “You Never Can Tell,” the two artists share a message of solidarity for Protezione Civile, an Italian government body, for its work during the pandemic.

Roberto Bolle and Virginia Raffaele, digital dance for Protezione Civile (March 31, 2020).

“Stay at home,” is the message from dancers at the Rome Opera House. They do exercises while drinking a coffee or reading a book, using a shelf in the living room or a chair in the kitchen for physical support. We also see them vacuuming, brushing their teeth, interacting with their children, and performing in front of their dogs. These professional dancers, through showing their home workouts, invite everyone to maintain social distancing. Eleonora Abbagnato, director of the famous corps de ballet, also appears in the video. Accompanied by Strauss, the company offers a domestic version of their work during the lockdown. But this video is also a way to appreciate their homemade choreography and the elegance of their movement, even though it’s far from the stage.

Dancers at Home: the Rome Opera House.

For prudent reasons, Italian dance schools have also suspended their work. However, the lockdown does not limit their choreographers and artistic directors, who have maintained contact with their young pupils. Annabella Barbato, the choreographer, founder, and artistic director of Studio Danza AbB, is an admirable manifestation of this kind of love for dance. Born in Avellino in 1976, she started her dance training when she was three years old. She was one of the best pupils of dancer Valeria Lombardi (1925-2003), who was the principal dancer at San Carlo Opera House in Naples and then Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari.

Annabella Barbato has over 40 years of dance experience, including shows with many international artists. In 1996, she founded the Studio Danza AbB in Avellino, and earned much praise for her pedagogy. The secret is her relationship with her students, which is supported by patience, good manners, creativity, and – above all – a great passion for dance. She is able to create a special synergy among the children in order to develop both their individual expression and ensemble skills necessary in dance.

During the lockdown, her young dancers have suffered from having to stop their training, but Facebook gave them the opportunity to demonstrate their desire to return to dancing with their beloved master. They are sharing their preparations for the celebration of Studio Danza AbB’s 25th anniversary. Photos and videos of their performances, directed by Annabella Barbato, are available on the Studio Danza AbB Facebook Page.

Studio Danza AbB Facebook Page, International Dance Day, April 29, 2020.

For 2020’s International Dance Day, Annabella Barbato has chosen two mantras to theme the video tribute to Studio Danza AbB: “dance frees the soul” and “dance for a better world.” Like Roberto Bolle and the dancers of the Rome Opera House, her students’ performances contain strength and hope for a good future, which is currently hidden indoors by the quarantine.

Meta-description: In Italy, the virtual dance of many artists is an emblematic form of resilience against the danger of the COVID-19.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.