23 November 2011
Four times world ballroom dance champion Mirko Gozzoli was here in Livorno last week to follow a small group of dancers who had come all the way from New Jersey, USA, especially to be coached by him. Professional dance instructors Arturas Misurenkovas and Oksana Zaver, and their students Mike Brown and Debra Cottone arrived in Pisa airport, where I met them.
Mike contacted me earlier this year, when he wrote to ask me to help find somewhere for them to stay during their time in Livorno. After several months of correspondence we found the right solution and it all came together smoothly. They stayed in a nice apartment in Ardenza Mare, near to the sea (for Debra and Mike’s running), and only about 20 minutes’ walk from the Spazio Danza dance studio where their lessons were held.
Little did I know how much I was going to enjoy meeting and spending time with these four lovely people!
Arturas and Oksana arrived first. They literally bounced into Arrivals, eyes gleaming, evidently very happy to be on Italian soil and to be starting their adventure here.
Mike and Debra came a little later, glad to have arrived at last, and when the four friends came together to travel to Livorno I realised they were very much in tune with one another, which I suppose fellow dancers have to be!
Ballroom dancing, or formal dancing of any kind, was a whole new world for me. I realised of course that it requires hard work and dedication, but I wasn’t aware of how physically demanding ballroom dancing is. I felt so privileged to be able to sit in on two of their lessons and practice sessions and was amazed not only at the beauty of the dancing, but also at the obvious passion that the dancers put into it. They had five full days of dance sessions with Mirko who, together with former dance partner Alessia Betti, won the World Ballroom Dancing Championships four times in a row from 2005 to 2008. They tell me he is also the perfect teacher.
During the week I also accompanied Arturas, Oksana, Mike and Debra to Mirko Gozzoli’s personal tailor, Luciano Matteoni, in Chiesina Uzzanese (Pistoia province) where Arturas wanted to be measured for a tailsuit. This was such a unique experience – a master tailor specialising in tailsuits for dancers, hidden away in this small town in Tuscany! Arturas was ecstatic! Mike and Arturas told me how difficult it is to find the same kind of specialised workmanship in the States, even in New York City. Luciano was courteous and helpful, carrying out his work in a truly professional manner. It was obvious that he knew what he was about!
The whole Chiesina Uzzanese experience was made even more special when we discovered Macelleria Viti, a well-known butcher’s shop on the high street and were invited to view all their newly prepared cured hams hanging in the back yard! Oksana loved their wild boar salami and couldn’t wait to get more when we went back to the tailor’s a few days later for a fitting.
When my four new friends left Livorno on Sunday, they were already talking about coming back again next Spring. They were full of praise for Mirko’s teaching and so pleased with how much they had learned from him here. They had enjoyed Livorno too, especially the In Caciaia restaurant in Antignano, the Coop supermarket in Via Settembrini for lots of fresh fish and vegetables, the seafront walks/runs, and the Spazio Danza studio!