New York City’s cultural diversity is at the heart of the new season of Bare Feet starring Mickela Mallozzi, a four-time Emmy Award-winning travel dance series. In the new series, Mallozzi, a professional dancer and trained musician, explores the restoration of New York’s culturally diverse community and celebrates the city’s resilience during the Covid boom through the healing power of dance and music, all while supporting small businesses and local establishments. neighborhoods. This is not the NYC of guidebooks, but an insider’s point of view. The current series is forwarded NYC life and begins to be broadcast PBS nationwide in June. I caught her recently to ask about this NYC-centered series.
Everett Potter: Mickela, what was the most unexpected thing you learned about NYC’s cultural mix when you filmed this season?
Mickela Mallozzi: I’m always pleasantly surprised to see how closely connected everyone is, even though New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world! When I start researching dance groups for moves or neighborhoods to visit, I start with a call or email, usually to a personal friend or contact person. And then it snowballs into this amazing network or network of love – so many people recommend others in their community and the story just keeps growing organically! I have to say, I love to travel the world and film Bare Feet abroad, but my favorite episodes to produce and film are right here in NYC – it really feels like one, big dance family here.
Potter: Your celebration of black dance in all its forms is a testament to how strong and multifaceted it is in NYC. What was your favorite part of filming that episode?
Mallozzi: I know it sounds cliché, but every moment of that episode is unique in its history and was a completely unique experience for me, from interview and dance with the legendary Virginia Johnson from the Dance Theater of Harlem to drum and dancing with the kids from the Brooklyn United Marching Band to meet my own dance teacher for the first time since the lockdown on Ailey Extension. All these experiences were unforgettable for me. But I am also aware that all of these stories are important to tell. And they are not my stories to tell – for this season I would really give so much space to the people we offer to tell their own stories, not just in this episode, but in all 12 episodes. This Black Voices season premiere really sets the tone for the entire season going forward. And Misty Copeland? I mean, come on! She’s a fan of the show. I still can not get over it!
Potter: One of the episodes that surprised me was the original Hawaiian dance culture in NYC. What is its origin?
Mallozzi: The mission of our Asian / Pacific Islands episode (episode # 503) is to show that the AAPI community is not a monolith, and I think that message shines through. We start the whole episode by dancing hula in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, which in itself is a melting pot as a neighborhood and as a park! I met with Na Pua Mai Ka Lani Nuioka – the group’s leaders, Tristan and Christopher, are not Hawaiians themselves, but they were guided by their teacher, Kumu Kale Pawai. What really struck me was their sense of responsibility to preserve their Kumus legacy, even after his unexpected death in 2016. The members of the group consist of Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian members, all enthusiasts of hula, Hawaiian culture and the idea of Aloha (love , sympathy, empathy, care). It’s really powerful to see how much this practice has touched its members. It was truly an honor for me to be able to experience it for myself and gain a better understanding of the concept of Aloha.
Potter: How do you think the dance helped the various communities survive the pandemic, even with the current restrictions?
Mallozzi: Dancing has been people’s medicine through the pandemic, also for myself. What I’m most proud of is that we captured many first places this new season, as if the first-time groups were dancing together in person again after over 18 months of trying to stay connected via Zoom. And the feeling was so tangible, at all these outdoor dance parties, dance lessons back in the studio, outdoor performances and more. Everyone was happy to be together again. Everyone shared tears of joy at being back in the theater and seeing a live performance again. Just Feet has always shared the message that art is essential, but I know that after strict lockdown, especially here in NYC, we saw on our own that art really is essential for a society to survive. Dancing really helped keep people healthy during lockdown, but then it also helped people feel human again when we were able to meet in person.
Potter: Given the current world situation, have you come across what I imagine is a strong Ukrainian dance culture in NYC?
Mallozzi: Yes! This new season 5 is actually our second season of cultural neighborhoods and dance groups in the five boroughs of NYC (you can watch our season 2, which is on 13 episodes on the PBS app or on PBS.org). We did an entire episode of Little Ukraine (# 207), which features a 3-block area of Manhattan’s East Village. I was taken directly into the community and I was able to share moments of absolute beauty in the music, warmth in the food and the community and joy of the dances. When the invasion of Ukraine first happened a few weeks ago, I know we all felt helpless (and still do), and my immediate response was to share this episode on my social channels to remind everyone of the beauty of the Ukrainian culture and its people. . I was amazed to see how that message touched so many people so deeply. And for everyone in New York, go to Little Ukraine and support this community, they need our love and support.