Mickela Mallozzi is a dancer, traveler, and producer. Wherever she goes, she experiences the world one dance at a time. Those are the premises of her four-time Emmy Award-winning show Bare Feet airing on PBS stations nationwide and on Amazon Prime globally.
The show covers not only her passion for music and dance, but also touches upon the culinary, cultural, and historical side of every country she visits. It embraces the people and the hearts of each country’s culture.
Unlike most dancers, Mallozzi lives a regular life, eats regular foods, and is not “thin-body obsessed”, as many dancers are portrayed to be. She seems like your next-door neighbor rather than a Julliard performer at Lincoln Center. In fact, during her journey creating this series, Mallozzi heard many times that she could never be the host of this show since she doesn’t fit the “typical stereotype” of a dancer, skinny with blond hair and blue eyes. More on that later. This story is an example of bravery and tenacity. Ok, she may not have that stereotype, but she does have a healthy-looking physique and a joyful personality, and Mallozzi is more concerned about learning the culture and dance of a country than searching for “skinny” as she spreads her love for the art to the rest of the world. “It’s not about me being on TV. It’s about sharing stories of dance and music”, Mallozzi said.
As you watch the show, the urge to dance is instant. Mallozzi makes dancing inspiring, fun, and approachable. The beauty of the show is that it makes us realize that dancing is age free—and stereotype free. It’s for the young, the old, and everyone in between.
In fact, one of the most empowering aspects of watching Mallozzi on Bare Feet, is how she is not afraid of dressing and dancing like the locals. She makes new friends by dancing with strangers, learning the choreography as she mingles into the dance with ease and grace. In Cyprus, she wears a “saia” and “trahilia” in the style of Cyprian nights and she fits right in. In Seville, Spain, she wears Flamenco clothes and hairdos. There’s nothing more empowering to women than an empowered woman. To watch Mallozzi dance is to fall in love with a country that you’ve never visited.
Born in Stamford, Connecticut to Italian immigrant parents, her appreciation for music and dance started at a very young age. She began dancing at three years old and playing the piano at five. By the time she was in high school, she was already choreographing and performing with prestigious companies in the tri-state area. In college, she attended New York University and majored in Music Composition, studying abroad for two semesters through the NYU Florence Program and as an AIAE Programma Ponte scholarship recipient in Rome in 2003.
Soon after college, Mallozzi worked as a music manager at a talent agency helping top music bands for a brief period of time, but dance kept calling her back. Eventually, she quit that job and started teaching dance in studios and gyms across the tri-state area.
During that time, she started to dream about Bare Feet, waking up in the middle of the night, thinking about the time she’d spent in Italy as a student. What would happen if she could create a TV show about this topic?
She didn’t have any background in TV, so reached out to her colleagues at NYU who studied film and asked if anyone would help her record a pilot episode. She flew some friends to her grandmother’s house in Italy, saving money along the way by staying and eating at grandma’s. When the episode was complete, she started pitching to companies with the hopes that a network such as Travel Channel would be interested in the show. Bummer; she learned that Travel Channel had already signed a similar show.
Eventually, she attended an APT conference in Boston that would change her life forever. There, she met a woman who loved her idea. Two months after the conference, that woman, who was the head of the programming at a public media station in NYC called her back.
In 2014, Mallozzi started filming season one of Bare Feet as an independent producer. This means she was in charge of finding sponsors for the show, manage the budget, and promote the show. She reached out to local tourism boards in each episode’s destination to cover travel costs. The show must go on!
Each episode of Bare Feet transports you to a new country, highlighting dance and culture from that location, as Mallozzi attempts to authentically learn the moves. And oh, what moves! To watch her dance is a study in grace. Her body motion is smooth and revealing with abstract gestures and magnetic rhythms. All the while, gorgeous landscapes of countries around the world fill the screen.
In Argentina, Tango is a cultural phenomenon created on the underground streets. At first, in the 1930s and 1940s, tango was not well received by high society, but when the dance traveled from Buenos Aires to Paris, where it was refined and some vulgar movements were filtered, then it took a whole new meaning in its birth country. Over time, tango was embraced by all levels of society making a mark on the country’s culture. There is a minimal distance in tango, making it one of the sexiest and most sensual dances around the world. “It’s like watching people have sex!” Mallozzi says.
“Tango is like a conversation, you have to communicate with the person you’re interacting with, it’s a memory of choreography, what naturally comes to your body”, a tango teacher explains. It’s a lot harder than it looks! Women’s legs fly in the air and around a man’s body. Sensuality is oozing through the skin and jumps out of the screen. Tango epitomizes the glowing ordinariness of dancing at Bare Feet.
In Malaysia, Mallozzi learns about the Portuguese influence, visits a Buddhist temple, a Hindu Temple, and a Christian church, revealing just how diverse the region is. She also visits a children’s school dance academy and, of course, dances with them too. While Mallozzi holds your hand guiding you through the country, it is the dancing moments that shine on camera and reflect the essence of Mallozzi’s journey.
In Vienna, Austria, Mallozzi explores ball season during Carnival and Mardi Gras. Young couples and debutants celebrate through coming of age traditions like the Waltz dance. It feels grand, like the old days. Imperial Austria makes you feel like a true member of the Royal family with these extravagant events. The Waltz goes all night long, as people dress in shimmering dresses and elegant tuxedos. It’s the opposite of tango – it’s formal, regal, and full of pomp & circumstance. In this episode, Mallozzi looks like an Imperial Princess, fit to the occasion, as she dances with her Viennese partner for the night. Her personality is as warm and charming as ever.
One episode after another, Mallozzi invites you on a journey around the world, taking her camera with her to follow dance in the lives of everyday people wherever she goes. From re-discovering her family’s heritage in Southern Italy, to dancing the tango in Buenos Aires, her voice is clear and her determination is a life lesson.
In one of her Emmy winning speeches, she dedicated the award to all of those people, who told her she could never be the host of a dance show because she didn’t fit the stereotype.
For more information about Bare Feet, visit: