Board of Directors

Larissa Chobany
Maria Miletta Chobany Co-Director, I Colori Italiani of the Italian Club of Dallas

Maria has been a member of the Italian Club of Dallas since 1979 and participated with the Tarantella Dancers in its inaugural performance at the Dallas International Festival in 1980. Maria has co-directed the dance group with Carrie Pollinzi Harris since 1987. Under their direction the group’s name was changed to I Colori Italiani (The Colors of Italy) and a children’s group, I Piccoli Colori (The Little Colors), was formed. The ensemble has built its repertoire on dances taught at IFAFA conferences and through videos of Italian performing groups and workshops by Italian choreographer Federica Calvino Prina of Genoa. I Colori Italiani has performed dances throughout Texas and in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Maria has been a member of the Italian Folk Art Federation of America since 1985, attending her first conference that year in Pittsburgh. She has served on its Board of Directors since the early 1990s. I Colori Italiani hosted IFAFA conferences in Dallas, Texas, in 1993 and 2007.

Maria also served on the Board of Directors for the Italian Club of Dallas as an officer for 16 years, serving as Secretary, Vice President, and President. Maria is a native of Old Forge, Pennsylvania, and visits family there each year. She enjoys spending time with her children Larissa and Stephen, daughter-in-law Amanda, and grandchildren Sebastian and Adrian; dancing; gardening; traveling; researching the family tree; and locating and visiting grandparents’ homesteads in Italy and Poland.

Patricia Civitate Director, Il Trattenimento Italiano, Des Moines, Iowa

I am Patricia Civitate and have been a continuous member of IFAFA since 1981. I am pleased to say that I have never had to miss a conference. I also was a part of the IFAFA Folk Dance Study Group that traveled to Italy to research music, costumi and dance. I am founder and director of Gruppo Il Trattenimento Italiano, an Italian folk dance group from Des Moines, IA. We have an adult group and a children’s group. Members of our group have also attended IFAFA Conferences each year since 1983. I have enjoyed serving on the IFAFA Board for several years and I’m pleased that our group was able to host the IFAFA Conference on two occasions.

I have been an organist at our parish church for over 70 years and direct the adult choir. I am also the Music Minister for the parish.

In my spare time I am director of our Italian-American Cultural Center of Iowa and chairperson of our Greater Des Moines Sister Cities/Provincia di Catanzaro Sisterhood/Gemellaggio. I am also a member of the Veneto Committee of our Iowa Sister States organization.

Rose Giarrusso Rose Dinardo Giarrusso has been a member of IFAFA since l988 when she attended her first conference with Jane Ferro and Anna Marie Fiori. She joined the Board in 1991 when she became Treasurer. Rose has served IFAFA as Treasurer several terms for a total of over 20 years, keeping the books, coordinating IFAFA’s several bank accounts, and tracking the IFAFA budget.

Rose was born in Italy, in the region of Molise, and arrived in the United States when she was five years old. She has traveled to Italy almost every year since l978, exploring the many interesting regions of Italy, each one with its own special interest. Researching her family history is important to her. In her “free time,” she enjoys gardening, reading, and of course travel.

William Giovanetti
Meri Howard Meri DeLorenzo Howard has a B.A. in Italian Language and Literature from the University of Washington. She plays the violin and sings. She has performed Italian folk music for more than 30 years. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, she performed with the group Le Voci Allegri in Seattle. She has operated the website since 1998. The website features lyrics to popular Italian folk songs and links to musical groups throughout Italy and folk instrument resources. She has been a member of IFAFA since 1999 and a Board member for several years. She has traveled extensively throughout Italy and videotaped festivals and folk concerts. Many hours of her footage of Italian folk culture are archived at the University of California Los Angeles through the Italian Oral History Institute.

Meri hosted the 2009 IFAFA Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Beatrice Ricotta Amici Italiani Italian Dance Troupe of Rockford

As a charter member of Amici Italiani, I have been a part of IFAFA since our troupe became involved. Amici was formed in 1985. I am currently the dance instructor for the troupe. I have been involved with the Board for several years but have not held a position.

I am active in our community coordinating high profile local events. Other activities include:

• Festa Italiana – past booth chair (sausage, kids crafts, admissions)
• GRIAA (Greater Rockford Italian American Association) – development committee
• Carnevale – chairperson for 5 years.
• Discovery Center Children’s Museum’s – Auxiliary president for the 3rd year. The Discovery Center is tied for 4th place ranking nationally. Our fundraisers have included bringing fun to Rockford in the form of the Ace of Cakes, the Dog Whisperer and MythBusters.
• Rockford Woman Victory Lap Brunch – co-chair. We doubled the profit we raised for the American Cancer Society’s fight against breast cancer in one year. We raised over $9,000 during the 2008’s 1 ½ hour brunch!
• Rockford Chamber of Commerce – Ambassador, taking part in ribbon cuttings and social networking activities.
• Guilford High School Booster Club – Board member, chairing Video Game Day and Alumni Committees.

Stephanie Ricotta Amici Italiani Italian Dance Troupe of Rockford

In 2001, Stephanie Ricotta joined Amici Italiani as a part of the youth troupe. She attended her first IFAFA conference in 2006 in Milwaukee. In 2008, she became a member of the adult troupe, where she currently assists with dances and preparations.  In high school, she was a charter member of the Italian club and was named president her senior year. She is a volunteer in the beef and cultural tents at Festa Italiani in Rockford. In 2015, She became a board member of IFAFA.

Stephanie attended DePaul University. Upon Commencement, she was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy, and is currently working towards becoming a CPA. For the entirety of her time at DePaul, she was a member of DePaul Dance Company’s Hip-Hop and Jazz teams. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, dancing, trying new things, and traveling.

Member and Former Director, Vivaci Folk Dance Troupe, Philadelphia, PA
Paul Torna joined Vivaci in 1990 and directed the group from 1998 to 2014. He has served on the IFAFA Board since 2001 and served as President from 2004-2006. Paul has been a member of the Ivy Ridge Lodge of the Sons of Italy since 1994 and is a member of the Associazione Regionale Abruzzese. Aside from Italian dance, Paul collects Cretaceous fossils, fishes, and is involved at his parish, Holy Family in Manayunk. He met his wife, Jamie, folk dancing, and they have two children, Grace and Michael.
Danita Wendorf My name is Danita Wendorf and I have been a member of Tradizione Vivente, the Italian Dance Group of Milwaukee, since 1997. I joined the IFAFA board in 2015. I have attended the IFAFA conferences since 1999 and enjoy meeting other people to share in our love of the Italian culture. Other musical activities that I am involved with include singing and playing handbells at my church, and playing mandolin in the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra, which is the world’ s oldest mandolin organization, having been in existence since 1900.