An American dancer looks back on nearly two decades of life as an expatriate in Italy.
In 1986, Marangon (Detour on an Elephant, 2014) was living in Los Angeles and working as a dancer, ballet teacher, and choreographer when a generous gift from the cast of one of her shows—a ticket to Venice, Italy—prompted her to make a change. She landed a job at a dance school in that city, intent on starting “the next chapter in my life.” But she soon discovered that life in Italy as a foreigner, or “extra-communataria,” was far different from visiting the country as a tourist. Navigating these differences proved challenging; dealing with Italian bureaucracy and what she describes as a “culture of corruption” was an endless source of frustration. An ill-advised marriage to an Italian man, she says, turned into a disaster, although it did allow her to get a green card. In this warts-and-all tale of a life abroad, she tempers the moments of stress with the obvious joy that she found in pursuing her passion for ballet and in introducing young people to dance. She was eventually able to establish her own school, and her accounts of staging productions—often in less-than-ideal conditions—are amusing, if sometimes too densely detailed. Much of Marangon’s memoir recounts the specifics of casting, set construction, and costuming for these performances as well as conflicts with rival dance teachers and her valiant efforts to keep her school financially afloat. However, she also mixes in more personal reflections on her abusive childhood, her difficult relationship with her father, and a vow she made as a child to find the “lost castles” in Ireland, where her ancestors once lived. She glosses over some topics fairly quickly, such as her father’s death, but she returns again and again to the theme of finding a home and security in an often unwelcoming world.
An often engaging remembrance despite occasionally awkward execution.