Fiorenza Todaro and Alessandro Scalora
Fiorenza Todaro and Alessandro Scalora

Will You Pay Me?

By Fiorenza Todaro
Contributing Author
Photos courtesy of Fiorenza Todaro
“Are you serious? I am your mother!”

“Will you pay me?” That was my son Alessandro’s way of encouraging me after I jokingly asked him if he was willing to give me a few private lessons to teach me some dance steps. I looked at him in astonishment and replied, in the best Italian I could muster: “Are you serious? I am your mother!” We both laughed irrepressibly.

That is how it started, during a hot August day in Georgia. The thought had not crossed my mind that at some point I would hit the ballroom dance floor. I was no stranger to competition on the basketball court, where I got my start at the age of 10 in my native Sicily. For the next 18 years, I “got game” until I moved to the United States.

Alessandro ultimately agreed to practice with me, and I promptly joined the adult class that he teaches at the Volga Dance Academy, every Wednesday night, in Atlanta, Georgia. As my determination grew, I made it clear that I wanted to compete. However, the utter lack of experience mitigated my ambition, and so we decided to compete in the Student-Teacher category in Latin Bronze Level, Senior I and II.

I felt proud and happy the day we finished our Rumba and Cha Cha Cha routines. That evening, in the kitchen, between measuring cups, mascarpone, Tiramisù and the occasional Rumba footwork, I “accidentally” sent the wooden spoon flying my husband’s way. He was not amused.

Our first “unofficial” competition took place in September 2021 at the Presidential Cup in Atlanta. The excitement I felt was surpassed only by the support offered by friends and other parents. We went on to compete at the American DanceSport Festival in Fort Lauderdale, in October 2021, and in 2022 at the Atlanta DanceSport Cup, the Southeastern Championships, and the Volga Cup, also in Atlanta.

Fiorenza Todaro competing with her teacher/son Alessandro Scalora at Nationals

This past April, we participated in the USA Dance National Championships in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The reward for our months-long efforts was an unforgettable experience: Alessandro and his partner Madeleine Mravkarov won the Under-21 Latin, Standard and Showdance Championships! For me this was the first real National Championship! We danced Latin Bronze and Silver Senior I and II but were uncontested. We also danced the Open Hustle on Friday night. The atmosphere at Nationals was fantastic! The floor was remarkably big, and dancing in that room was priceless for me. During the award ceremony, I felt extremely proud of my son and myself, when DanceSport Vice President Katrina Volgina handed me the medal!

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, from packing at home, to getting up at 5 a.m. to have my hair and make-up done, to wearing my competition dress and shoes, warming up, and finally entering the ballroom floor and … dancing!

Of course, dancing with my son is not always a cakewalk. During practice, we laugh quite a bit because I manage to unfurl funny and silly moves. However, occasionally my not-so-subtle lack of coordination with my arms makes him mad. One time, I decided to sit down and give him time to cool off. Instead, he was going to step out of the ballroom floor. I scolded him: “You cannot step out of the dance floor. I am not your average student,” to end with the usual: “I am your mother!” This reminder seems to do the trick every time and is a catalyst for a good laugh. 

Alessandro is very passionate about teaching. He demands a lot from his students. His favorite line is: “No excuses!” So, he pushes me to the limit, he motivates me to do better and to challenge myself. Quite often, I have limped back home with sore feet and hips, but happy and fulfilled, with a feeling of satisfaction and achievement. The biggest challenge is to find time to practice together. Of course, his work schedule comes first, and I refrain from practicing alone. The most important things for me are the experience, the great feeling of accomplishment, to make my son proud of the hard work and time he dedicates to me, and to enjoy every moment.

Our plans for the future include to begin Standard soon, and to be ready to dance both Latin and Standard at Gumbo in New Orleans, in November! I look forward to it!

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