It’s 2011, and Mariangela is 26 years old. She has a degree in foreign languages under her belt and a dream in her heart: turning her love of dancing into a project that can encourage dialogue among people of different cultural backgrounds living in her city, Catania. This is her story.
Catania is becoming more and more multicultural, yet the path to integration seems long and difficult. Aware of the power of dance as a means of communication, Mariangela, who has studied this art form since childhood, begins to nurture the idea of starting a dance company with young people from different cultural backgrounds. With the help of the local Diocesan Caritas, which provides a room for the first auditions and rehearsals, the Compagnia Multietnica DanzaMIR (MIR Multiethnic Dance Company) takes its first steps. Its name is above all a statement – in Russian, the word mir means both world and peace.
Over the years, the company has welcomed young people of different age groups and nationalities: Sri Lankan, Indian, Slovakian, Eritrean, Egyptian, Turkish and Italian. None of them is a professional dancer, but they all have something in common: the desire to share their inner world, their cultural and artistic heritage with one another, and to blend these rich characteristics into a style that incorporates typical rhythms and moves from every country.
This way, Mariangela aims to help these young people live an experience of fraternity, at the same time recognising the value of each member’s cultural identity. “I strongly believe – because I’ve experienced it myself – that dance is not only beneficial to a person’s development in both mind and body” – she explains – “but it also helps people bond. Since the earliest days, man has marked the most important moments of his life, both as an individual and as part of a community, through dance”.
Not only does the company embody the concepts of integration and dialogue, it also takes them on stage in its three shows. ‘Il ritmo del mondo’ (‘The rhythm of the world’) revolves around the theme of human relations, ‘Nadir’ proposes a reflection on the richness and harmony of diversity through the metaphor of the rainbow, while ‘Dancing the Jungle Book’ is a visually and emotionally engaging performance inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories.
“At the end of the day, I’ve only contributed very little to the integration of foreigners in Catania”, says Mariangela, “but at least everyone in the company has had a good time, whether they have stayed with us for a long time or left after a short period. And those who have left keep in touch”. This has been the case for an
Egyptian boy who has gone back to his country after spending two years in Italy to study, but who regularly writes asking about “the MIR family”. And it has been the case for Shaman, a young man from Sri Lanka and one of the first members of the company who, after briefly going back to his country to get married, has returned to live in Catania and is now Mariangela’s neighbour. Although he first joined the company by chance – he was invited by a friend who left shortly afterwards – he became one of its most committed members, and the protagonist of a beautiful friendship between two families.
“In time, my family has become a reference point for his family”, explains Mariangela, “today we are very close friends, and his toddler, Lorena, who is one, has become my five-month-old daughter Anna’s first friend”.
Passionate about singing and dancing ever since he lived in Sri Lanka, Shaman never misses a rehearsal, even though his job here is tiring and demanding. For her part, Mariangela, who in the last few months has put her dancing shoes aside to dedicate all of her time to her baby daughter, is planning to come back very soon to start a new year of activities with the company. The show goes on.