There are two elements in my life that continue to keep me going, no matter what hardships come my way. Those two elements are food and dance, which are both deeply rooted in Italian culture and my family’s heritage. Italian lineage has a certain beauty and purpose that brings delight to the rest of the world. Showing this beauty of our heritage through cultural preservation allows future generations to enjoy the intent of life instilled in Italian history.
Growing up with a father who owned an Italian restaurant in Little Italy and a grandmother who gifted me foods such as pizzelle for every birthday and celebratory event, I am forever reminded of my Italian heritage each time I eat my family’s Italian food. Although dishes in any culture are commonly blended with other heritages’ food, the meaningful Italian tradition of enjoying meals and recipes with close family and neighborly ties continues no matter what the recipes entail. My grandmother Dolores passed away in May of 2021, but her tomato sauce and meatball legacy forever lives on in my family. My father never forgets to use her recipes, and whenever he makes her eggplant parmesan, I am reminded of the times we enjoyed her home-cooked meals in her Little Italy home. In the neighborhood of Little Italy, I can feel my Italian bloodline each time I visit. During festivals such as the annual Italian Festivals and the Madonnari Art Festival, I enjoy art and recipes from other restaurants and families from the neighborhood. Preserving the tradition of sharing food with family and friends is meaningful because it keeps the Italian origins of recipes that date back hundreds of years. Sharing food also keeps the bright spirits alive of family and friends for centuries later. I want to preserve this tradition by passing down recipes, celebrating Italian history, and sharing the stories about my loved ones who have shared these foods with me.
Although many believe ballet began in France, the art form originated in Italy during the Renaissance era. In its earliest form, ballet was a part of the court dances performed at Italian celebrations such as weddings or birth ceremonies. A family of wealthy bankers named the Medicis frequently funded and participated in art during the Renaissance. One of the family members, Catherine de Medici, brought many art forms to France, including ballet, and helped to popularize ballet and dance as a mainstream art form and type of entertainment in the mid-1500s. Another Italian figure, Domenico da Piacenza, was one of the first ballet masters- the professional teacher and rehearsal director of a group of dancers-in history. Even though the popularization of ballet took place in France, it is noteworthy to understand that Italian dancers and historical figures developed the art form. The classical art of ballet would not exist today without the influence of Italian history. As a ballet dancer myself, I believe historical art forms like ballet should be preserved and passed down to each future generation. Even with the updating and blending of ballet with dance styles rooted in other heritages, ballet continues to be a foundational technique for almost all Western dance genres. Ballet also brings entertainment to those who enjoy the performing arts and has generated iconic music from ballet classics like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Almost five hundred years after ballet was created, I am actively preserving the art form by pursuing a degree in Dance Performance and a career in performing, choreography, and teaching ballet to young students.
Although Italian food and ballet might seem like two completely unrelated topics with no ties to each other, both of these components of Italian history bring joy to the lives of myself and others. I believe that cooking and dancing are two art forms that seek to entertain and share the beauty of Italian culture with the rest of the world. My exposure to the art of ballet and Italian cooking from a young age creates feelings of sentimentality in my life that I want to share with the future generations of my family. I hope my future children and grandchildren will pass this down to their kids. My goal in sharing these beautiful art forms with an audience of hundreds or even just a dinner for two is to create an atmosphere of Italian culture filled with greatness and strength. Italian family members who have passed, such as my grandmother and historical figures such as Catherine da Medici or Domenico da Piacenza, held this strength within their livelihoods that they shared with their family, friends, and the rest of the world.