The other day I visited la mia sarta, my dress maker, Rosa, and found her working on the smallest pair of traditional boys britches I had ever seen. “Are they for a large doll”, I stupidly asked. Cara, questi sono per il più giovane membro di Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo! What she meant was – “you silly cluck – it is dance season and I make all the costumes. This is for the youngest member of the company – a two year old!” Many of our village’s kids are learning about their heritage by performing with the dance company, Ri Ualanegli.
Not only do they learn the dances, but they explore the stories behind the dances. Learning about the contadini, serfs and farmers, who worked the land and just how they worked it. Extended families still live together here and children see their elders planting gardens, harvesting olives, pressing tomatoes into sauce and still eating and cooking in a traditional way. Through the dance company, these piccolo dancers gain an even greater understanding of who they are and what life was like in their home town. History lessons are a natural part of the dance lesson! My Arts Educator brain just took over – think about it – these kids are having fun, learning about their culture and have the opportunity to grow as self confident, creative problem solving adults! Yeah for Dance! YOU CAN SEE THESE TALENTED KIDS LIVE – HERE IN PONTELANDOLFO – JULY 31, AUGUST 1ST AND 2ND. Here are a group of kids dancing in 2014 – wade through the introduction and you will get to the dance – note the older kids helping the babes in dance along –
Other children are fascinated with the old sounds and music that accompany the dancers. It makes my heart burst with joy to see the little guy learning the musicality of the fisarmonica – accordion – from the old masters. This instrument, featured in the folk group Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo and other Italian folk companies, looks a small accordion. These kids who rock out the local Tarantella don’t know it yet but they too are accepting the responsibility of passing on the culture of their village. The traditional music reflects moments in our historic time line. The songs are of joy, fear and love. I was delighted a few weeks ago to listen to a recital done by a group of young musicians. The traditional music of the Sannio Hills will live on through this and ensuing generations.
This past week, a group of Pontelandolfese men made sure that the sport that I never heard of before I came here was passed down to the little men who would make up the teams of the future. These kids began by strapping cord to their arms, loading up a wheel of cheese and letting it fly! Welcome to ruzzola del formaggio – cheese rolling. Actually, this weekend was our Festa di Formaggio with competitions for children and adults. Of course, there was also the tasting of yummy local cheeses. This was the first annual Festa di Formaggio so plan on being here next year for it!
These wee cheese rolling wonders were working with adults who have been part of Pontelandolfo’s award winning team. Ruzzola del Formaggio competitions are incredibly serious. The winner gets to keep the cheese – it does get eaten! There are teams from all over Italy. Those teams would not exist and that tradition continue if villages didn’t keep the sport alive.
Passing the cultural torch is important for all villages and equally important for families. Share those tales. Write down those recipes. Dance the dances your grandparents danced. Let your children learn about who they are and where their roots are.
Don’t forget to come to Pontelandolfo on July 31St! Explore our culture and enjoy our art!