Valeria Grazivssi and Davide Diandrea from Retro teaching Lindy Hop to Fiona Hook (left), Claire Willis and Susan Willis (right).

Lindy hop from Rome to Ballyjamesduff

GOAL Promoting inclusion through the universal language of dance

Lindy Hop; the dance we have all seen in the movies but may not know the name of is in production for Ballyjamesduff.

Hot, jazzy and upbeat with hands and hips flying everywhere, the dance originated in the 20th century in the United States.

Its history can be traced right back to Harlem in New York, to predominantly Black neighbourhoods where, despite discrimination and segregation at the time people swung to jazz and, with it, a smile and a conversation, which led to inclusion and eventually acceptance.

The Savoy Ballroom, located in Harlem, became the hub for Lindy Hop, where segregation was left at the door bringing black and white people together to dance.

Last Thursday, jazz music bounced off the walls of the Old Courthouse in Ballyjamesduff, radiating energy.

The source of the upbeat tune was Valeria Grazivssi and Davide Diandrea, a dancing duo who arrived in the town to learn about inclusion and diversity initiatives in Ireland.

They are working on a European project as part of the Erasmus+ programme to help integrate people in new communities through dance.

The two dance teachers work as part of a dance organisation named ‘Retro’ teaching Lindy Hop to people in Italy.


They will be working alongside Teach Solais to bring the dance to Ballyjamesduff, integrating community as part of a project known as ‘Dance 4 Inclusion’.

Teach Solais is a community development organisation based in Ballyjamessuff promoting life long learning and informal education. The organisation focuses on inclusion and creative expression, working mainly with different cultures.

Director of the organisation Claire Willis explained that, in the second part of the exchange, a group from Ireland will go to Rome in January 2024 to take dance lessons and learn about integrating different communities.

“The hope is that they will be so inspired that they will bring it home and use it here,” Claire said of the group, explaining that the “end goal” of the Dance 4 Inclusion project is to bring Lindy Hop to Ballyjamesduff.

“It seems like an odd combination; Rome Ballyjamesduff,” Claire acknowledged, adding that they both have “very diverse audiences and communities” and are “looking at ways to create harmony”.

“There’s a lot for Ballyjamesduff to learn about how Rome interacts with these issues,” she said.

“Believe it or not, there’s a lot for Rome to learn from Ballyjamesduff.”

Valeria and Davide work in an area known as Terracina, which is in the south of Rome, where there is a multi-ethnic and diverse population.

“Integration is important because generally speaking the war is becoming global,” Valeria said.

“We need to welcome people in our communities,” she said, emphasising that it is important to “keep the differences” between people.

“The main goal and the thing we can do is pick all the differences and take the advantages,” she said.

Valeria was sitting in Ballyjamesduff Court House discussing means of integration with Claire, her mum Susan Willis and Fiona Hook, who are both project managers of Dance 4 Inclusion.

Valeria had just been served a cup of coffee and a traditional Irish scone.

“I like them very much,” she laughed, referring to the chaotically shaped bun with raisins.

Valeria and her dancing partner Davide performed the highly energetic dance with passion and then passed on their love in a quick lesson. Although Davide had limited English, he was still able to teach and pass on the warmth of the dance, proving that no matter where you are from or what language you speak; everybody can join in.

“The common soil is to respect difference and respect each other,” Valeria explained.

“Lindy Hop is something that once you learn it, you can find it everywhere you go,” Valeria concluded.