Video: Italians cope with economic crisis by throwing lavish 18th-century balls

ROME, Italy — Italians are looking to the past for ways to cope with a not-so-glorious present. In recent months, the Italian National Historic Dance Company has seen a record number of new members. More people are learning 18th-century dances like waltzes, polkas and mazurkas and flocking to historic balls, dressed in period regalia.

At a time when the guarantees many Italians grew up expecting — a stable job, a quiet middle-class lifestyle, a vacation every August — have been upended by the recession, some say a night posing as 18th-century nobility offers both reassuring stability and liberating escape.

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