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The Glamorous Italian Club Scene for Oldies

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

Diehard fans of liscio, an Italian music genre and dancing scene, has dedicated venues called balere, and a fan base that's generally over 50 (more often, over 65).

Old couple dancing together

In its own way, it's a glamorous, wild and countercultural corner of European clubbing. The music is effervescent and the aesthetic is unmistakable: band members wear satin dresses and bell-bottom suits, with lots of shiny fabric and sequins; patrons dress up as if they were attending a wedding.

Decades ago, liscio dominated central Italy, especially the region of Emilia-Romagna, but even though the number of balere has declined, the liscio club scene is still alive and well. Indeed, that's why it's fans like liscio - it keeps them alive and well.

Liscio, which translates to 'smooth', is generally looked down on by Italian mainstream culture because it's perceived as provincial, low-class and far too camp. It has a strongly local and working-class dimension. Its roots are in peasant dancing fairs at the dawn of the 20th century, when Carlo Brighi, a violinist, adapted central European dances, such as the waltz, polka and mazurka, to an Italian taste.

Liscio is the only dance native to Italy that survived the import of American genres, such as swing and boogie-woogie, says music critic Giulia Cavaliere. Its success, she explains, was in its romantic appeal: “It’s about dancing and eroticism. The balere (which translates to 'dance') were places where women dressed up to attract a companion, and where dance was a precursor to a kiss.” But there’s also an element of class redemption: “For the whole week, you are a farmer or a factory worker, but at the weekend you dress up, and for two days you have a different social role.”



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