A Brief History of Vivaci!

Vivaci! (formerly named I Ballerini e le Voci d'Italia -- Dancers and Voices of Italy) was founded in 1972 by Cav. Elba Farabegoli Gurzau. Elba, the author of Folk Dances, Costumes and Customs of Italy (1963), dedicated her life to researching Italian dances, songs and traditions. Her book of dance and costume has enabled many Italian folk groups to get started. In the 1980's, Elba brought together other Italian folk groups and formed the Italian Folk Art Federation of America (IFAFA). IFAFA has a conference every few years so that individuals can share, learn and experience the many beautiful and diverse Italian Folk arts.

Elba directed I Ballerini e le Voci d'Italia until 1998 at which time she handed the reins over to Paul Torna who has been performing with Ballerini e Voci since 1991. Elba remained involved with the group until her death in June of 2003. In late 2005, the group was renamed Vivaci!, which was the original name that Cav. Elba Gurzau wanted to give the group.

Our group's goal is to learn, share and teach the varied and diverse folk arts of Italy. We try to maintain the true joyous spirit and informal nature of Italian dance. Our group is informal and low stress!! Our group is made up of approximately 16 dancers ranging in age from 10 years to 75 years.

We are available for any size of performance in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, as well as in nearby states. We perform dances from all over Italy, using pre-recorded music. Our fees, which are negotiable, are based on travel costs and performance length. Our members are volunteers, however, we need to charge a fee so that our group can continue.

We practice on Saturday mornings at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church at 9th and Pierce Streets in South Philadelphia. We generally practice from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. Our practices are open to the public, and we encourage anyone interested in joining our group to attend our practices. Our only requirement is a love for things Italian. Call or e-mail us, and we will send you our practice schedule. All ages and abilities are welcome.

Sometimes schools and other groups are looking for Italian folk dance lessons as an activity. We can provide you with the names of individuals who can be hired to teach workshops. Fees are negotiable with the instructor. Fees for instruction go directly to the instructor.

Some of the Organizations for Whom Vivaci! Have Performed

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Thomas Jefferson University International Day
  • Columbus Day Parade and Marconi Plaza Festivities
  • Delaware Italian Friendship Day
  • Olney Cultural Diversity Festival, (Philadelphia)
  • Balch Institute, Philadelphia
  • Sons of Italy Chapters and Filitalia Chapters
  • Retirement Homes and Hospitals
  • Weddings and Family Reunions
  • Mercer County, NJ, Italian Festival
  • Dorthea's House, Princeton, NJ

To book a performance , contact Ron Smith (

To join the group, contact Paul Torna  ( )

Thank you for your contributions to IFAFA!

A. Smiraglia, PA

M. Chabon, PA 

D. Frigo, CT

F. DiCristina Jr., GA

V. Tagliavore, CO

D. Desmond, PA

D. Bitzel, OH