Let’s dance the tarantella!

Hi my lovely dears!
I already mentioned that I am a dance maniac, so today’s post will be about another Italian folk dance: the tarantella.

This is actually a name used to denote the quickly-paced folk dances of southern Italy, including the pizzica in Puglia (about which I will write another blog post), and also other local folk dances of Campania (I already wrote about the tammurriata), Calabria, Puglia and Sicilia, which of course all have different names.

The tarantella has existed since the 17th (or even the 14th) century, but we know little about these early versions. The dances were codified in the 19th century, when the famous Italian composer Giacchino Rossini wrote a piece called La Danza (see the video below this paragraph), which was part of a group of compositions he published between 1830 and 1835. This music became the best known tarantella all around the world, and is what Frank Petrangeli asked the musicians to play in The Godfather Part 2.

The name tarantella is probably connected to the tarantula, the poisonous spider, because it showed the effects of, and at the same was also the cure for, the form of hysteria believed to be caused by the bite of the tarantula and of other poisonous insects and arachnids. For that, it was danced mostly during celebrations for the saints Peter and Paul, believed to be the protectors against poisonous bites. It was also danced during other celebrations and festivities, and some people believe the name is instead connected to the city of Taranto in Puglia, as the place of origin for these folk dances. Moreover, the tarantella is probably connected to the dances performed during the Bacchanalia, the celebrations for the god Dionysus (Bacchus for the Romans).

The steps in the tarantella can be danced in couples (man and woman or two women) or groups (mostly women), and include bouncing and jumping and kicking with alternating feet in front of each other in a mirrored way, turning around each other while being shoulder-to-shoulder, as well as turning with arms locked while facing each other. When the dance is in couples, one of the two can also kneel on the pavement while the other goes around him/her. When the dance is in groups, the dancers can form a circle and move clockwise while keeping the right hand towards the centre and the left hand on the hip.

In the tarantella the dancers can play instruments like the castanets, like in the tammurriata, or a tambourine, the musical instrument (actually of Middle-Eastern origins) made of a wooden (but nowadays also plastic) frame, with pairs of small metal jingles all around and with or without a membrane to be struck. Other instruments used to play the music of the tarantella are the guitar, the mandolin, the violin, the flute, the accordion, the cupacupa (a sort of drum played through moving the hand on a stick connected to the membrane).

Do you like tarantella? Have you ever danced it? I would like to hear from you. I also hope to see you soon again on this blog. For now, enjoy the videos I embedded below to show what I’m actually talking about. Ciao ciao!

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