Museum to celebrate slate belt's Italian heritage

GRANVILLE, N.Y.-On Sunday, June 13, Celest DiPietropaolo and his wife Marie DiCocco present an afternoon of Italian village music and dance at the Slate Valley Museum, 1:30-4:30 p.m. Their educational performance, with an emphasis on southern Italian culture, is free and open to the public through grant funding from the New York Council on the Humanities and the Shepard Broad Foundation.

Since 1983, DiPietropaolo's research has taken him to the mountains of southern, central, and northern Italy, including Sardinia. The couple, who lived in Italy for three years, teaches dances that are still a living part of community and family festivals and rituals in the mountain villages today. To encourage descendants of Italian immigrants to rediscover their music and dance heritage, the first section of the pair's presentation includes video clips from their field studies and a short concert with Celest playing organetto and Marie playing guitar and tamburello. In the second session, they involve the audience through participation in simple dances and singing traditional songs.

"Our main reason for being in the education business, as opposed to the entertainment business, is to try to ignite a fervor in Americans, especially those of Italian ancestry, for understanding and hopefully practicing the Italian music and dance traditions that their distant cousins in Italy are still practicing today," says DiPietropaolo. He distinguishes these circle, line, and couple dances from stage entertainment typified by choreography and costumes.

DiPietropaolo has exhibited traditional music at major festivals in the Washington, D.C. area, including those sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, Folklore Society of Washington, and the Italian Embassy. He has been teaching Italian traditional dances since 1984 all over the United States, including Florida Folk Dance Camp, Friends of International Folk Dance Weekend in New Orleans, Annual Mendocino Folklore Camp, Annual Chicago Festival of Folk Dance, and Folklore Village Farm.

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