The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University will host “Film & Fiction Italian Family Style: An Afternoon of Italian Heritage” from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18.
Diana Pishner Walker will read from her children’s books, and her sister Anna Pishner Harsh offer a premier screening of “La Danza-Bridging Time Through Dance,” an Italian dance documentary. Walker and Harsh’s paternal grandparents were from Caulonia, Italy, (Reggio Calabria), and their maternal grandparents were from San Giovani in Fiore, Provence of Cosenza, Italy.
Admission to the event is free and open to the public. Following the presentations, a brief reception is planned with refreshments provided by the Morgantown Sons of Italy Lodge #914. Walker and Harsh will be available during the reception for a question and answer session during the reception, and those who attend will have the opportunity to meet and greet the creative team behind the film. Books and copies of the documentary will be available for purchase.
Allegro Dance Company directed by Anna Pishner Harsh produced “La Danza – Bridging Time through Dance” to preserve traditional Italian dances. This documentary features traditional dances from several regions of Italy and explores how they are passed on from one generation to the next. For more information visit www.allegrodancecompany.net.
“La Danza” is available at the Harrison County and Ohio County Public Libraries, Heinz History Museum in Pittsburgh and NIAF library in Washington, D.C. The documentary is being used as an educational tool to teach these traditional dances in schools and universities throughout the United States.
“I have been performing these dances since I was a child. I am thrilled that the public will have the experience and opportunity to see these rare and beautiful dances. Sharing this film with so many audiences is a true honor to those that came before me and taught me about heritage and pride of being Italian. Traditions and stories are told in our music and dance. What an opportunity to leave such a wealth of knowledge and culture behind for future generations to learn and enjoy,” Harsh said.
Professional dancer, freelance choreographer and artistic director, Anna Pishner Harsh is a West Virginia native who holds a Masters of Arts in Communication from West Virginia University, a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Slippery Rock University and is a STOTT PILATES™ certified Instructor. She has volunteered as the West Virginia State Director for National Dance Week and served as faculty for West Virginia Northern Community College and the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts.
In 1993, she founded the Allegro Dance Company, an Italian contemporary dance company, which has toured the US and Italy bringing the Italian culture to the next generation through performances and workshops.
Harsh has performed with the Pittsburgh Dance Connection, toured as a featured guest artist with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and has choreographed for numerous musicals throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Her choreography has been showcased for the Miss America organization as well as local movies and commercials. She has won numerous awards for choreography and performance and has been seen in Dance Magazine, Danza Italia and has written for Dance Spirit Magazine.
Harsh is the recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Education award from the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival and Marshall University. Today, she continues to advance and preserve the art of dance as she conducts her highly successful residencies, lectures and workshops throughout the United States and Europe.
Diana Pishner Walker was born in Clarksburg and is the daughter of the late Louis and Anna Allessio Pishner. She attended Notre Dame High School and graduated with the class of 1977. She attended Fairmont State and is employed by the Marion County Board of Education. She resides in Fairmont with her husband Mark, and they are the parents of three children Curt, Courtney and Chris and his wife Ashley. They have two grandsons, Ashton Louis and Austin Maddox.
As a first-time author, Walker shared her non-fiction book “I Don’t Want to Sit in the Front Row Anymore,” written as a memoir after the loss of both of her parents Anna and Louis Pishner within seven months of each other. She has been a presenter and co-chairperson at the Author’s Forum during the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival and has participated in numerous book signings and events throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Her first children’s book, released in August 2015, is titled “Spaghetti and Meatballs: Growing up Italian.” It is a children’s book about her childhood. The book is illustrated by Ashely Teets and published by Headline Books. The book has received the Reader’s Choice Award Honorable Mention for best children’s non-fiction, as well as the Hollywood Book Festival Award Honorable Mention, Mom’s Choice Award, London Book Festival Award, Southern California Book Festival award and most recently a 2016 Preferred Choice Award by the Creative Child Magazine, as well as an INDIE award. It has been juried and accepted at Tamarack in Beckley and “The Italian American Press.”
Headline Books just released Walker’s second book, “Hopping to America: A Rabbits Tale of Immigration” in April 2016. The book, also illustrated by Ashley Teets, recently won its first award from New York Book Festival. It is the story of immigration from Italy to the United States to Ellis Island and on to Clarksburg by a family of rabbits. Both books have recently been accepted to “I Am Books” the first Italian-American bookstore in the United States.
“This book was written after I stumbled upon the start of a story, a few lines about a rabbit named Joby,” said Walker. “It was in my mother’s handwriting, whose dream was to be a children’s book author. I found it after she had passed, at the bottom of an old Christmas card list; it was truly an honor to finish it for her,” Walker said.
The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University is dedicated to the identification, preservation and perpetuation of our region’s rich cultural heritage, through academic studies, educational programs, festivals and performances and publications. For more information about the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, visit www.fairmontstate.edu/folklife.