United World Project


When dance rhymes with unity and fraternity | Part 1

16 February 2024   |   Italy, Arts, DanceLab Armonia

Meeting with Antonella Lombardo, founder of ADW (Academic Dance Workshop) of DanceLabArmonia and of the Armonia for Peace march. Tireless user of art to build fraternity, unity and peace.

Antonella Lombardo started studying dance since she was a child. She continued at the Dance Academy of Rome and followed courses in Paris, at the Sorbona de Cannes. She got married at the age of 25 years interrupting her ballerina carrier and dedicated herself to teaching. She built a center of extraordinary art in 1948, full of humanity, at Montecatini, in Tuscany. It’s called Academic Dance Workshop: the ADW, was the start of a great story. We met with her to hear about an adventure that started 40 years ago.

Our work was born to create a centre of encounter for the youth. To offer them a place to experiment art in its diverse disciplines, with positivity and encouragement. A school that since 40 years meets thousands of youth.

What memories do you recall of the beginning?  

Many, but I also remember a growing restlessness as I struggled to convey the true essence of art.

How come?

I did not receive help from the media and from the talents that were emerging then: the youth would enroll themselves to participate in those programs. They were looking for personal success, visibility. This would make me suffer.

Then what happened?

Between 2003 and 2004 they called me for a performance for a group of youth in Assisi. There, I met professor Massimo Toschi, a differently abled person on a wheelchair, then counselor of the Tuscan region. He asked me if I had a dream. It was a very important moment. He was running around different parts of the world to support wars or social problems. He was working to bring political solutions. His heart was beating in unison with those he met.

What did you answer him?

I told him about the dream that youth from every nation could perform on a stage to witness art as an instrument of unity between people. He was impressed. He wanted to help me and asked me to write a project.

I did it…

And thus began the adventure of the Cultural Association “DanceLabArmonia”: expression of the Academic Dance Workshop to offer the true sense of art to youth who encounter dance.

What results did this initiative have?

 The project entered into communion with many youth. Finally they could try living the primary and highest meaning of art. It was no longer my words to explain that art is not just for the television. I found in one of my former students, Elisa, an ally, and despite the age difference she has always been at my side.

How did this work evolve in time?

It took three paths­: the first, for the youth through a free international campus, where for 12 to 15 days a year the youth live and study together in my school. In the year 2022 we reached the 9th and now we are trying to achieve the 10th.

Where do the youth come from?

Spain, Bosnia, Lebanon, Egypt, Argentina, Palestine and Italy. Also from war zones. In this way they can encounter peers with problems greater than theirs and experiment the power of art.

The second path?

An International Festival, reached its 19th edition, that involves the Municipalities of Valdinievole (out of which Montecatini Terme) in the province of Pistoia. The people can participate in artistic – cultural evenings based on the theme chosen each year.

For example?

Suffering in the People, Hope over Fear, Knowing Each Other Not to Fear, Art as Education for Peace.

The goal does not change:

To witness art as a universal instrument of harmony amongst the people.

How important are the institutions?

We managed to build a mutual agreement protocol with the region of Tuscany and get the municipalities of Assisi, Palermo and Florence to join us. This protocol helps us not so much financially but with patronage. Each municipality can give life to an evening according to their possibilities and what it retains is useful for the territory. The schools also enter the Festival and from here originates, in 2012, the march “Armonia for peace”, wanted initially by the Institutions, but later transformed into an educational path to Peace in the schools.

When does it take place?

On the 4th of October, involving schools of every order and degree of our territory.

To whom is it addressed?

To over 1500 youth who march from one municipality to the other. Then, during the year they carry out activities to be builders of peace with the teachers.

An ongoing work…

Daily! We can become builders of peace with our bench mate in class, in the family, amongst our friends.

Is it from here that the third path is born?

During the pandemic, the march and the work around this, due to the necessity, opened up to the virtual: with one minute videos sent by the schools on the theme of peace.

Did this difficulty become resource?

The change provoked encounters with schools coming from various parts of the world. And not only from our territory.  Furthermore, the teachers tell us that through this lovely idea they can get to know their students more: in the videos and in the preparation they talk about their experiences, they get to know each other better. The virtual march is constantly growing.

Did these three paths lead you’ll across the world?

With the ADW and the association DanceLab Armonia we performed a show in Budapest (with 25 thousand youth coming from various parts of the world for the GenFest), at Manila and Marseille, where 4000 youth from Muslim and Christian schools met.

At some point, the complexity of the Middle East.

Always through Massimo Toschi, in 2006, I went to Jerusalem to talk to a minor friar: Father Ibrahim Faltas, now  vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land. He had to help me with the visas so that the Israelites and Palestinians could come to our international campus in Italy. It was the first campus we organized in Italy. I reached Jerusalem quite excited.

Read the second part HERE.