Emilia’s Last Dance

The decline of a one-of-a-kind musical genre

At the turn of the 1970s and ’80s, the entertainment industry was born in Italy. Emilia-Romagna, in particular, became a real entertainment hub, with countless clubs and dancehalls in a radius of just a few hundred kilometres.

Along with the clubs, the temples of what is known as “smooth music”, the dancehalls, began to proliferate in the wake of the success of Raoul Casadei, the most famous exponent of the genre. Many orchestras sprang up out of the blue. Today, the Casadei Orchestra, for example, performs concerts at a quick clip, often even outside the region: in just a short time, smooth music, and the couple’s dance of the same name, become a mass phenomenon.

Decades after its golden age, however, smooth music is in decline: the latest statistics speak of a turnover of just 20 million euros per year, 75% less than in the ’90s, when in Emilia Romagna it generated revenues of over 100 million.
The dancehalls have gradually closed their doors (the last, the historic “Ciao Estate” in Piacenza, and “Al Camaroun” in Bologna, have been inactive since January 2019), the genre’s musical tradition has been heavily influenced by Latin American flavours, the average age of the public has increased.

In Emilia (and in some regions of northern Italy), smooth music is still a lively everyday spectacle but confined mainly to recreational clubs for the elderly and the few dancehalls that remain open, clinging to those generations that made the boom. Yesterday’s young, who today are between 60 and 80 years old, have remained on the dance floor: the last witnesses of the epic of a cultural phenomenon perhaps destined to disappear.

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