An Interview With Massimo Giorgianni and Alessia Manfredini
Massimo and Alessia? Italian Fire On The Ballroom Floor
Massimo Giorgianni and Alessia Manfredini have been married for only five years but have been dancing together since they were very young. They?ve been amateur world standard champions, European champions, professional finalists and twice world professional showdance champions. The culmination of their competitive career together came at the world?s most prestigious dance competition. At the completion of the Team Match in Blackpool they announced their retirement, and the entire audience at the Winter Garden rose to their feet to show their appreciation and respect for the innovative dancing they have produced over the years. This couple has always been an audience favorite due to the feeling and fire in their dancing, and they thrive on the reaction from the crowd. Massimo and Alessia?s incredible emotion for dancing will be greatly missed at all the competitions.
Tell me a little bit about your dance background.
Alessia: We started as juniors when we were 14 together, but actually we both had different partners first. I started at nine and Massimo was eleven I think. That?s it. Since then, we never stop.
Why did you start?
Alessia: My grandfather was a social dancer and I think one of his dreams was actually to be a competitor, but he was too old to start that, so he put his passion on me. I was a little girl and he took me to the dance school. I liked it so I found a partner.
Massimo: There was a school of dance in my hometown. Friends of my parents saw the school and talked to my parents about their daughter dancing with me. I stopped for a little while because I didn?t want to dance, then I started again and I never stopped.
How did you start together? Did someone introduce you?
Massimo: Actually, we knew each other from the competitions.
Alessia: We used to compete against each other. Massimo stopped with his previous partner and when I stopped with my partner our teacher put us together. He thought that we could be a good couple. Our parents agreed, so we started. In the beginning it was because they put us together, not because....
Massimo: And the result was quite good. We did the championship and we were second.
Alessia: After two months dancing together, so it was immediately successful. So we thought....
Massimo: We try!
And you competed ten-dance?
Massimo: Yes. We did for many years. We stopped ten-dance in 1995. In Italy, we danced the world amateur championship and we were second. That was the last competition we did in ten-dance.
How high did you rank in the youth divisions?
Massimo: We won the youth.
Alessia: In Italy. We were quite successful internationally as well; we were in the semi-final at the International, UK and Blackpool. As amateurs we won the world championship in ?95 and ?96.
Massimo: Actually it was quite fast, because one year we danced youth. We were in the final so we went to the next class in the amateur.
Alessia: So it was very fast, we coming up. We had good results.
How long were you amateur before you turned pro?
Alessia: We turned pro in ?97. That was after we won the world amateur title twice.
The first year you were pro, where did you place?
Massimo: We won the World Showdance title, after one month of turning pro. And we made the final in tango....
Alessia: In Blackpool. We made the semi-final in the other dances so we were seventh.
Massimo: Seventh in Blackpool, seventh at the UK.
Alessia: And we made the final in the U.S. Open also.
I?m sure it was exciting to make that final.
Massimo: Of course, of course!
Alessia: I still remember the time that we made the final in tango.
Massimo: It was a great... the audience was so good.
Alessia: I still remember the reaction of the audience. It was fabulous, really. I?ll never forget that.
What has been your most memorable moment?
Massimo: One of the best is when we won the first world championship in Holland because we didn?t really expect it. At the time we were third in the ranking, and that was actually very nice. The audience was so good with us. We really danced good and we won. I have a tape of it, sometime I see that, and my skin, you know?
Alessia: And when we made the final for the first time in all four dances.
Massimo: After only two years.
Alessia: That was in ?99 I think. That was very emotional because we didn?t expect it.
Massimo: We were thinking about it, but....
Alessia: We try, like everybody. But it?s not like if you?re already a finalist, you say, ?If I dance, I know I can do the final.? At that time, we had six couples that normally were before us.
Massimo: So we went in the final and pushed out one finalist. And we were second in tango.
Alessia: Third in quickstep, so that was pretty great.
Massimo: Actually, Miss MacKenzie, the festival organizer, told us that never happened before. That one couple rose to the top so fast.
Alessia: So we are in the history book I think, for that one!
Why did you choose just to continue with standard when you had done ten-dance for so long?
Massimo: We had a better result! That was the main thing! Actually, I really like Latin, but maybe it was that we were better in ballroom.
Alessia: In Italy when we started to dance, we learned a traditional dance called liscio and it is similar to American style. I think that influences a lot of Italian couples. We normally do better in ballroom than Latin.
Massimo: Now Latin is getting better, actually.
Alessia: Yes, but I think because of that situation, our culture develops the ballroom more.
So that?s why the Italians are better in the ballroom.
Alessia: I think liscio influences a lot.
Massimo: Our traditional dance is similar to ballroom.
Alessia: It?s quite popular in Italy as a social dance.
Massimo: The most popular.
Alessia: And many people start from that.
Why did you like Latin?
Massimo: I like the music of Latin?. sometime better than ballroom, especially in competition. I don?t really like the music at competitions. It?s not very musical; it doesn?t move you. Very boring, I find. When we practice, we always use very special music, good music. We always have to find different types of orchestra music.
Do you like Latin too?
Alessia: I like Latin very much. And I like when I see good Latin dancers perform, but I naturally feel ballroom better as a movement. I feel that more for me, for my character.
You were one of the first Italian couples to really start placing in the World. Did you feel you had to break into the English world?
Massimo: Actually, yes, right now you see so many Italian couples. I remember when we did the forty-eight, for us it was so great, then the 24 and then the semi-final. When you talk now with new kids, they do maybe the 24 and they?re not excited any more. I still remember when we made the 48; I was really in the moon! And now it?s so normal.
Alessia: We influenced a lot of the ballroom dancing. We have a particular style that is probably a little bit different from the traditional ballroom style. So we broke through a lot.
How do you think you developed this different style? Did you work with certain people or did you do it yourself?
Massimo: Ruud Vermey influenced our way of moving.
Alessia: A mixture.
Massimo: We are both very sensible people. We give a lot of passion to what we do. Our culture I find, influences our style of dance. And of course we also had teachers help us to develop what we are...
Alessia: What we try to do to put humanity in ballroom and this feel for the movement that we do.
Massimo: What is missing in the dance is the style. Many dancers look the same on the floor. I think all the dancers should find their own way of being in the movement.
How did Ruud influence you?
Massimo: To be aware of what we are. To understand the meaning of what we do.
Alessia: It?s not so much about steps, but the way you do the step and about moving...
Massimo: What you communicate to the people.
Did you realize when you started this that you were creating something new or did it just kind of happen?
Alessia: Actually we were aware. When we started to work with him, we were looking for something different. We were not 100% happy; we couldn?t make out what we felt....
Massimo: We felt inside that something was missing.
It wasn?t fulfilling for you?
Alessia: Exactly. So when we started with him, we were aware of the difficulty, but aware also of the different information. We took 100% the information and really tried.
Massimo: We believed it.
Alessia: We believed him!
Massimo: I think we are very free people. Very free mind and we tried with him. This is what I think is really important.
Who else has influenced your dancing?
Massimo: Two other people that influenced us are Doreen Freeman and Peter Eggleton.
Massimo: Doreen suits our style. So much. She?s a very artistic and passionate woman. There?s always something more to do. She?s a very sexy dancer.
Alessia: And she leads you to find yourself in a way.
Massimo: Peter Eggleton has given us freedom in technique in ballroom. He?s a very special dancer.
Alessia: He has influenced us a lot in the last few years.
Massimo: He has a system that makes two people dancing together, quite free.
The Italians do really well in the tango. Why?
Massimo: I think not just in tango but in all dances.
Alessia: The Italian men are really conscious about themselves, the women too, about the dress, about the look. There is this contrast about femininity and masculinity that in tango is so obvious. Tango is about this relationship between men and women, more strongly than the other dances.
Massimo: If you see the history of the tango there was really a lot of Italian influence on the music of tango. So maybe we feel that more than the other dances.
Do you like tango better?
What?s your favorite dance?
Massimo: Many people ask this question. I have periods. And it depends on music. If you put a beautiful waltz, for that period, I love the waltz most. Then I find a good foxtrot, so I love the foxtrot most. I don?t have actually one dance. It?s very changeable.
Alessia: Yes, me the same.
In the team match in Blackpool, the Italians got a perfect score in the tango?
Alessia: Yes, we won the ballroom. But for us, that was not our purpose; we just want to dance.
Massimo: At this moment in time.
Alessia: And dance well? the best that we could express ourselves. This was the goal for us. So in that sense, we feel that we won.
Massimo: When you have the audience with you, I think you win.
You always seem to have the audience with you. Even here. Why? Is it your passion, your emotion?
Massimo: This is the reason why we do it. Audience is very important.
Alessia: I think people totally recognize what we do. And they understand what we feel. And maybe they like it, so this is what?s happened.
Massimo: I think we don?t just sell the steps; we sell something else. Maybe they feel it.
You look like you really want to be dancing.
Alessia: Oh yes.
Massimo: Because we?re happy to move! Happy to be there? to communicate something, to make others feel what we do. That is our main goal.
Why did you decide to retire?
Massimo: Because at this moment in time it?s boring, not exciting.
Alessia: I think that competition is....
Massimo: A little game.
Alessia: A game, exactly. We didn?t want to play it.
Massimo: We were not happy any more to do it.
Have you always agreed on the direction that your dancing was going?
Massimo: Definitely. We talk about things when we practice and we agree.
Alessia: Yes. And many things came out through the dancing, through the movement, so it was like magic it came out like that. After it happened we would discuss it and we both agreed. We always have the same goal dancing-wise.
Are you going to judge now? Or what are your plans for the future, besides shows?
Massimo: We don?t know yet. Weigh what?s happened and weigh our feelings.
Alessia: We are planning new shows and we are still developing our dancing. We?re building a dancing school, where we live, near Milan.
Massimo: A very nice school.
Alessia: That will be open in September, so we are busy with that. Massimo?s dream is to become a choreographer. He wants to study for that.
Alessia: And then we will see. Those are the three things that are in our mind.
Massimo: Tap dancing.
Alessia: He wants to dance tap and study choreography.
Do you tap at all now?
Massimo: I did some lessons and I find it so exciting. So now that I have more time, I want to do that.
Alessia: Maybe develop some Argentine tango. We did it a little but never had full time to do that.
When you teach, do you think you teach alike?
Alessia: Both of us are similar. Things that we say are similar, but we have maybe a different approach.
Massimo: I think so.
Alessia: Probably I?m more....
Alessia: I?m really precise. And Massimo is more emotional, I think. I?m emotional too, but in a different way. I go through the technique and Massimo has a different approach to achieve that.
What do you respect and admire most about each other?
Alessia: You talk first!
Massimo: She has a lot of courage.
Alessia: He never told to me!
Massimo: She knows what she is. She never says ?no? straightaway. She gives a lot.
Alessia: Is enough! I never had so many compliments in all these years!
Massimo: She asked me! You should have asked!
Alessia: Massimo is the most intensive, passionate person I ever met. And he really puts so much effort and passion in what he does that he draws you in this passion. When you dance he?s really 100% there. He puts everything he is in that moment. You feel it?s like that moment is forever. Also what is nice about Massimo as a dancer is that you never know what?s going to happen. Every time he does something, even the same step, there is always something different. And it?s so nice as a woman to feel that. He?s a sexy man to dance with.
Massimo: You never said that to me.
Alessia: You too!
Massimo: Aahhh! Sexy?