Since the 1990s, this effervescent subculture has been failing, but a dedicated group of fans and musicians is determined to keep the party going.
Vittorio Piovani works as a barber in the village of Traversetolo in central Italy. Every Sunday, he puts on an elegant suit, shines his shoes, curls his long moustache, and, like many other weekend clubbers, goes dancing at a neighbouring town’s club.
Except Piovani is a 75-year-old grandfather of three who craves an environment that offers him a deep sense of belonging and community.
Piovani is a devoted follower of liscio, an Italian music genre and dancing scene with specific venues known as balere and a following of over 50 people (more often, over 65).
It is a glitzy, wild, and countercultural enclave of European partying in its own right. The music is bubbly – there’s a lot of accordion – and the look is unmistakable: band members wear satin dresses and bell-bottom trousers with a lot of sparkly fabric and sequins, while clients dress up as if they’re going to a wedding.
“Liscio has it all: a little waltz, a little polka, a little tango, and a little slow-dance,” Piovani remarks inside Redas.
Liscio once dominated central Italy, particularly Emilia-Romagna, but it has been on the decline for decades, and some worry that Covid may have placed the final nail in the coffin.
Dance halls were closed on and off for nearly two years before being permitted to reopen fully when Italy’s state of emergency regulations were lifted this spring. Some had closed permanently, while others had returned but with a different genre.