Student organization celebrates Italian culture through Carnevale Dance Night

Kevin Hacker (left) and Anna Worrell (right) sit together and work on their masks during the first-ever Carnevale Dance Night — an event hosted by La Societá Italiana. The event was held on March 22 in the Student Union to celebrate Italian culture.

La Societá Italiana, or Italian Club, celebrated Italian culture on March 22 at its first-ever Carnevale Dance Night in the Garden Key Meeting Room of the Student Union.

About 20 students attended the event which incorporated a host of activities, such as mask-making and dancing.

The event was inspired by the annual Carnival of Venice, a celebration held in Venice, Italy, widely known for its incorporation of masks into its festivities, said Betsy Echagarrua, vice president of La Societá Italiana.

“Historically, [the masks] were known to be a way for the identity and the social status of the wearer to be hidden, and there are many interesting stories regarding this," Echagarrua said. "Nowadays, the masks are more used in a celebratory way and in a less serious light."

Students danced to a mixture of Italian music in addition to Latin and American songs — a reflection of the younger Italian generation's preference for diverse music, Echagarrua said.

Carnevale Dance Night attracted both enthusiasts and those new to Italian culture.

Gabriella Fernandez, junior biology major, attended the event and said she has an interest in the diversity within Italian culture. She said she has a personal connection to the country through her mother, who is from the Sicilian region of Italy.

“There are some things that you see throughout the entirety of Italy, but every region has their own cultures and customs,” Fernandez said. “I would say more so than here in the United States because here, obviously every state has their own thing going on, but I would say it’s more homogenized.”

Amy Berdat, sophomore computer engineering major, said she had little knowledge of Italian culture prior to the event but felt compelled to attend after hearing about it through a friend.

“I do have an interest in Italian culture," Berdat said. "I used to watch a lot of history and travel channels and took AP European History in high school."

The National Italian American Foundation sponsored the event and agreed to fund two on-campus events for the La Societá Italiana in an effort to help the group engage with the UCF community, Echagarrua said.

She expressed the club’s gratitude for NIAF's contribution, especially during a period of renewed energy within the organization.

“Two years ago, it was a really active club," Echagarrua said. “But last year, they didn’t do as many activities and then all of them were seniors so they basically graduated. We had to start from zero and recruit new members and the new officers."

Echagarrua said La Societá Italiana considered other event ideas but chose Carnevale Dance Night after continued discussion among club members.

She said she hopes the event will become a tradition for the club.

“We will definitely try to plan this event again in the future," Echagarrua said. "In addition, we will be hosting other cultural events — bigger ones — for next year."

Additional information on meeting times and events for the club can be found on its Facebook page.

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