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From Rome with Love: Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari

U.S. Standard Finalists Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari. U.S. Standard Finalists Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari. Mary Lou Photography.

By Emily Yewell Volin of Dance Informa.

Italian Ballroom dancers Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari have earned multiple international titles, among them that of 2013 U.S. Standard Quarter Finalists, and regularly train and compete around the world. Now based in the U.S., Dance Informa caught up with this pair, a busy couple both on and off the dance floor, to learn about their lives, training and why they wear Capezio.

Where did you grow up and did you have to relocate in order to train at the professional level for ballroom dance?

“We lived in Rome for all our lives until we moved to the U.S. in 2009. We had our main coaches in north Italy, but in order to become better and study ballroom dancing more deeply, we have traveled back and forth to England. We are still doing that now as professional competitors to supplement the great teachers we have found here.”

Where and how did the two of you meet?

“We’ve actually known each other since we started competing [Emanuele was 10 years old and Francesca was 8]. We decided to start dancing together in 2002 when we were both looking for a new partner. If it wasn’t for my phone call to her, Francesca would not have tried to dance with me. At first we didn’t really like each other and now we are married!”

Ballroom dancers Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari

Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari at their wedding.

How do you balance being a couple both on and off the competitive dance floor?

“We are always together – practicing, teaching and competing. We are really focused to help each other, but actually, we never spend part of that time for just being a couple. The only way is to have a little vacation or day off in order to switch our brains from dancing to ourselves.”

To achieve the title of U.S. Standard Finalists, what do you have to perform?

“We danced five partner dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot and Quick Step. These dances require a lot of skill to be able to dance close to each other without losing contact all while maintaining speed and harmonious moves with a lot of tradition.”

What are the characteristics and requirements of these partner dance categories?

“Waltz is a soft and smooth dance with clear musical accents where it’s possible to create big shapes, rotation and swing movements that make you feel like flying. The waltz music is our favorite classic.

Tango is a strong and powerful dance with a lot of rotations and sharp dynamics. The movement also requires a lot of passion.

Viennese waltz is classic partner waltz where the couple can create rotary movements and changes.

Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari

Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari proudly wear Capezio Ballroom shoes.

Slow Foxtrot is very elegant but at the same time fluid and metronomic.

Quickstep is a fast dance. It’s very funny but with brilliant and sparkling actions and movements.

We also did a classic show dance where we had to create a dance for music we had chosen but were restricted to standard technique, positions and moves for 75 percent of it. The rest of the dance could be free and open, like jumps, lifts or movement without the close (standard) hold. That means it was free to our interpretation.”

What differences do you notice between competitive ballroom dancing in Italy and in the United States?

“The main difference is that here the dance is mostly focused on the artistic part. In Italy, the dance was also artistic but mostly focused on the athletic part.”

How do you adjust to the time differences when you compete on different continents within a short span of time?

“We try to be there at least a couple of days before and we try to sleep as much as we can to rest and be ready for the competition. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t want to rest every time. The only way is to be there earlier because the shock of the jetlag will come in the second day – never in the first one.”

Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca LazzariDo you study other types of dance in addition to ballroom? What other types of conditioning or cross training must you incorporate in order to maintain your fitness?

“Because we are a full-time 10 dance couple, we have studied mostly ballet, a little bit of Flamenco, music and sport psychology and applied that in ballroom. Also, in order to be more competitive we also do fitness, stretching exercises, psychology exercises, breathing exercises and do not forget the importance of diet.”

Which Capezio shoes do you wear for training and competition? Why?

“Francesca uses the Autumn for Standard because they are elegant, but classic, and supports her feet. I use the Tony with my students because I do a lot dances and these support my feet. Keeping the shape helps my feet get less tired. I like to use all the capability of my feet during competition so I use the Travis in black. I also teach in Travis because with their flexibility, I have the opportunity to dance Standard and Latin without changing my shoes. Francesca uses the Audrey because they are very comfortable for teaching different styles and because they have a close fit and help her feet to be supported with less stress. They also look very nice.”

Why is Capezio a dancewear brand you trust?

“Because they are very nice people who are always ready to help. The shoes are very different in style and there are many choices for different needs.”

Where could a person watch you perform or compete?

“You can find us on YouTube or our website ( Many competitions have streaming [online] or sometimes, like with the world championship, competitions are nationally televised.”