This is an important day for all dance enthusiasts. On 29th April, dance is centre stage: there are performances, workshops, activities in schools and theatres and dance classes all over the world. Contemporary, classical, tap, hip hop, breakdancing, funky jazz … dance is an international language and a powerful tool for creating social cohesion. It is the “Esperanto” of body language that is found in every culture. Antonella Lombardo says, “Dance and music are means of dialogue expressed in thousands of different cultures. This dialogue happens when you study, perform and enjoy sharing music and dance.” After training as a dancer in Italy and France, Antonella has worked for over thirty years as a ballerina and teacher.
“At a certain point in my life, I felt the need to take this art form to a more spiritual level. I was looking for Beauty with a capital B. I had opened a dance school but the whole world of dance seemed so troubled and complex: everything about it seemed so short-lived. It was then that I came into contact with Chiara Lubich and the charism of unity. I wrote to her explaining all my difficulties. She answered my letter straightaway; her reply was clear and decisive. ‘Whatever job you do has great meaning if it is done out of love. Everything contributes to Goodness, to Truth and to Beauty. Harmony is the highest expression of unity.’ At first, I didn’t understand how to put this into practice. However, after some time, I was helping to organise a performance for a national youth meeting when I met Massimo Toschi, a councillor in Tuscany. He asked me if I had a dream and I told him that it was to have dancers from all parts of the world perform together.”
That was the beginning of the Harmony DanceLab Association. The aim of this association is to develop dance as a means of creating harmony and dialogue among different cultures and so contribute to peace in the world. For the last thirteen years it has organised “Harmony among People” an international festival, involving not only a dance school of students from areas of conflict in Palestine and Israel but also many people from the local community. Peace education underpins the professional and human formation that the students receive. Over the years, the Association has spread to various parts of Italy and Budapest and, since 2014, has worked in the Middle East with the John Paul II Foundation and in collaboration with the “Children Without Borders” Institute and Custodians of the Holy Land.
Antonella continues, “Peace is not just a goal to reach but an everyday process that requires great effort and commitment. It is an educational challenge. Students learn dance techniques but also experience the power of a language that is superior to Art. On the last evening, they tell everyone about the respect, understanding and fraternity they have experienced.” An intercultural and inter religious Peace March is also part of the project. This takes place every year on the 4th October and draws people from institutions, schools, voluntary groups and faith communities (Christian, Muslim and Jewish) in Tuscany.
How many young people have you met in your career as a teacher of dance? “Thousands. Dance is difficult and demanding but young people are drawn to it. TV talent shows also attract people but give a distorted idea about what is truly art. You have to provide an experiential dimension to make an impact as a teacher. Nowadays, young people do not accept the theory without experiencing the importance of it for themselves.”
Does art have a social value? Antonella Lombardo is certain that it does. “Art is like the prophecy of a new type of Humanism – a means of achieving social harmony. It is a reflection of Beauty that is Love. In conclusion, she says, “Keeping this in mind as I carry out my profession has changed my life totally. I have found meaning in what previously seemed to have no sense. I try to give young people the opportunity to do the same so that their lives might be a work of art, just as Chiara Lubich taught me.”