Sunday, March 25, 2007

Le Veline

The subject of le veline is one that is near and dear to my heart, so near and dear that it threatens to give me a coronary when I think about it. For someone who worships at the altar of Terpsichore, le veline represent false goddesses.

Le veline are the dancers on an Italian TV show called Striscia La Notizia. The word velina means tissue paper or flimsy paper.

These are the current veline...

Don't look like flimsy pieces of tissue paper to me! Maybe it's not their bodies that garnered the name veline, but rather, dare I say, their minds? Or maybe their value from the perspective of the male hosts that surround them? (Not just male. The ubiquitous Michelle Hunziker, a Swiss Italian actress, often cohosts on Striscia. Her relationship to le veline? She makes rude, jealous comments, like there should only be one pretty girl next to Enzo, the puppy and Gabibbo...Gabibbo needs his own post. Suffice it to say, he is a big mascot that looks like Barney except red).

The brunette, Melissa, is from Sardinia, never danced before. She played soccer. The blond, Thais, is Brazilian, so she was dancing in the womb. No matter either way. They are effectively pole dancers without poles (okay, sometimes they have poles), strippers who are already practically naked. I enjoy seeing the grandmas in the audience clap along to their gyrations.

Here are the veline from 1999-2002:
Am I going to get arrested for this post? Don't you love how there is always one blond and one brunette? It's just so fair! Equal opportunity! Not only blonds have fun! No brunette left behind! We see more of the brunette's behind!

The only Italian TV show I watch with any regularity is L'Eredità, a quiz show hosted by a lipless guy named Carlo. It used to be hosted by Amadeus, who looks like a weasel, but who I much preferred. Under Amadeus's reign, there was a dancer named Giovanna Civitillo (Newsflash! She has classical ballet training. She studied at Spazio Danza right here near Napoli! What happened?!) and four other back-up dancers. Every evening before La Scossa (shock or shake; the part of the show when the contestants have to avoid choosing the correct answer from a list of about 10), Giovanna did one of three dances and lip-synched. The choreography was a little salsa, a little samba, some random shoulder shimmying and pelvic thrusting, and a dash of voguing. The four other dancers did an occasional pirouette, some floor work here and there, body waves, basic jazz choreography. They have since axed all of these ladies and replaced them with le professoresse, four women in black and white outfits, who explain the answers to some questions and who dance with disco balls and put their fingers in their mouths. They are awful. I miss Giovanna, Miriam, Claudia, Ombretta, and Valentina. (I just rattled those names off by heart. Isn't that impressive? Disturbing?).

My question is, Why are they there? Why are their dancing girls on a quiz show, on a news program? Imagine Alex Trebec surrounded by dancing girls. Pat Sajak may have Vanna White, but at least Miss Horsey Tooth Face has the dignity to just turn letters, just stand still, smile, and turn letters.

Some extraordinary number of Italian girls when surveyed said they wanted to grow up to be veline. Something like...all of them. Again, not so good with statistics, but everyone who's anyone knows that Italian girls want to grow up to be veline!

Inside the Italian dance studio, you see what dance in Italy is about. A class taught by a fabulous contemporary dancer visiting from Belgium or Denmark might attract 20 students. A class taught by the choreographer of Janet Jackson videos will attract at least 250. Danza moderna, a.k.a. jazz/TV dance and hip hop or breakdance are huge, so huge they have become synonymous with dance.

Le veline just stump me. I know that Italians like to see skin, love beautiful women. I know newscasters show cleavage here. But I'm still tortured by it all.

There is another show called Amici, which is like American Idol (I guess, never seen it). Here two teams of performers compete in singing, acting, and dancing. The dancing can even be ever so slightly contemporary, but again, it's mostly Broadway-like. The host is a woman with the deepest voice I have ever heard. She sounds like Cookie Monster.

I read somewhere that Dancing with the Stars is the most popular show in America. Various people in the concert dance industry (industry...guffaw guffaw) have been suggesting that contemporary dancers find a way to capitalize on the popularity of the program. Their mistake is that the program is popular, but that doesn't mean dance is. People watch Fear Factor, but don't then go out and eat worms and jump out of airplanes without parachutes. And ballroom dancing is an entirely different animal.

My friend R. thinks contemporary dance has low audience turnout because it's more fun to do than to watch. That is definitely part of the problem. The great Merce Cunningham said that it wasn't necessary to like his dances. He just hopes they make you think, and we all know most of us don't want to go to the theater to think. We want to escape! So bring on the half-naked butt-shakers!

It is true that a lot of concert dance of the modern-postmodern-contemporary variety is a drag to watch, even when one is in the know.

As for Dancing with the Stars, I think it's popular because people like to see famous people make asses of themselves (be humbled; kind of like carnival, the kings become plebes and viceversa), and they also like to see people triumph over adversity (dance well without having any formal training), and they like crash courses rather than 3-year MFA degrees. Lacking grace and dancing is the collision the audience loves... look at that spaz, they cry!

I don't have a lot of faith in contemporary dance becoming popular. It would probably lose its edge if it did. And besides, we all know dancing is for sissies.

I am in the process of writing two articles, one about Italian dancers who have had careers abroad and have returned to Italy, the other about expat dancers who are involved in Italian scene. I should have some more insight on le veline after, don't you think? All these thoughts on dance need a lot of work. I should get back to writing about Naples, huh?

And about baking! I just purchased my first sifter. Yes, it's true, I have been baking without one all along. The cakes come out good, but I had no idea what a difference a sifter makes! I made a coffee cake this evening -- I tried explaining to The Husband that there is no coffee in coffee cake, that you eat it, I guess, with coffee, never mind -- and it came out so light and fluffy. No lumps. I'm very excited. Now I need to get a double boiler to melt me some chocolate!


sognatrice said...

Hey if you figure out that Veline thing, do share. I can't make heads or tails (hah!) of it.

Anonymous said...

great post. yeah the whole Veline phenomenon is rather disturbing... honestly, a majority of them are not even THAT good at dancing, or maybe it's just the "choreography" that sucks!
don't even get me strated on the lip-synching thing, how annoying is that? they have NO idea what they are singing and it's more than obvious.
the only american show that had something similar to these bimbos was "In living Color" with the fly-girls BUT it was different.... they were showing a new style of dance back then and most of them were good dancers. yes, they wore daisy dukes but they weren't nearly as naked as the italians and they didn't look like they were strippers. call me biased but they had more dignity, class & talent.

Anonymous said...

i just read a great post on this same topic:

Anonymous said...

Great Post,

Can't wait to read your post about Gabbibo. Maybe you can even translate his song. What's so crazy about the veline is that they get about a minute or two of airtime a night and are two of the most famous women in Italy.