But earlier, before the work was first performed, as soon as Sciarroni let friends watch rehearsals, he was faced with a seemingly predictable response, but one he had not expected: a queer reading. “We were not thinking about a gay connotation at all,” he said. “We don’t want to underline it or make any comment.”
“We are queer people,” Borzillo said, “so it emerged without our addressing it.”
“Alessandro told us to keep it our secret,” Giannini said.
The dancers have now performed “Save the Last Dance” more than 100 times, in a variety of settings, indoors and outdoors, in plazas and at least one cathedral. Recently, they danced it at a queer festival in the south of Italy.
“It was very emotional for us to perform it inside our community,” Borzillo said. “Some other places, you can feel that the gaze of the audience is full of prejudice. But after five minutes, you feel that they are fascinated, because they recognize it is tradition. It’s like a meeting point, also between generations. Something that belongs to the past really belongs to the present.”
“You can’t quite place it,” said Elena Siyanko, PS21’s executive and artistic director. “It’s not the past. It’s not nostalgia. But it’s not the present exactly. There’s a subversion of your expectations.”
The 20-minute run time, Siyanko acknowledged, makes the dance a little difficult to program. “People expect a delivery of a product, a proper performance at least one hour,” she said. It helps that at PS21, as at most places “Save the Last Dance” is performed, it will be paired with a workshop during which Borzillo and Giannini teach polka chinata to the public. This will be followed by a dance party, a chance to try spinning with a partner while DJ Joro Boro spins records.