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  • Italy Gets Dance Fever
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    OCTOBER 2, 2005 - Dance fever is sweeping the world - and Italy was among the first to catch the bug. Last year, RAI television introduced "Ballando con le Stelle", the Italian version of "Dancing with the Stars" that is the highlight of every Saturday night, which is now in its second season. Just what makes watching our favorite celebrities doing the cha-cha so exciting?

    For starters, there's that dark part of us that wants to see otherwise talented people fall on their face. But when we watch these dancing celebrities and see that they don't have two feet, we become mesmerized by their discipline and grace. We can't believe that some of them have only been dancing for a couple of weeks. They seem as though they've put their heart and soul into a new career.

    Last night, the show brought together our favorite things - our nostalgia for the past, our love of soccer and the beauty of dance. For those of us with our roots in Naples, Diego Armando Maradona is a patron saint. He's credited with bringing Napoli its only scudetto win. He gave the glory years of soccer to a city that now sits in the country's lowest division.

    And yesterday he inspired Italy once again with a version of the jive that included him balancing a soccer ball on his head and later keeping it in the air with one foot. He received ovations from the entire audience, the judges, and even his competitors who welcomed him back to the green room with applause and a pick-up game.

    The possibility of seeing our favorite celebrities from years gone by restored to their former glory with a spin or a dip is part of what keeps us coming back for more. But there's also the possibility that a starlet will confirm her title as "the next big thing."

    Consider Cristina Chiabotto, the 18-year-old Miss Italia 2004, who has teamed up with 18-year-old professional dancer Raimondo Todaro. This duo has captured the hearts of Italy because there appears to be a blossoming love story between them. They're always sweetly kissing and teasing each other. And they're so in sync on the dance floor that they appear as one. Their sexy costumes and fresh faced looks speak of the optimism of young people. Just watching them is like dipping into the fountain of youth. Could they be the last dancers standing? You never know.

    Just like the American version of the show, "Ballando con le Stelle" is a competition and couples get eliminated weekly. And every week it gets harder to say good bye because no one wants to dance the last dance. There's something profoundly sad about the party coming to an end. But we're left with the memories - and the photos and film available online - to get us through the "tristezza." You can't stay disappointed for long. After all, for now, we always have next week for another twirl.

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