ITALY – TARANTELLA
The tarantella is a traditionaldance6/8 or 4/4timecharacterized by the rapid whirling
of couples. There are several local variations of this dance, including the Neapolitan, Sicilian,Apulian and Calabrese tarantellas. The time signature, the fact that it is led by a caller, andseveral of the figures suggest that the tarantella may be related tocontra dance.It is named after Tarantoin southernItaly, and is popularly associated with the large
localwolf spider or "tarantula"spider (Lycosa tarantula) whose bite was allegedly deadly and
could be cured only by frenetic dancing. One variation of the legend said the dancer mustdance the most joyous dance of her life or she would die, another says the dancer will go in tothe most joyous dance of her life before she dies. In actual fact the spider's venom is notdangerous enough to cause any severe effects. The spiders, far from being aggressive, avoidhuman contact.The tarantella can be traced back to theMiddle Ages, and may have evolved from aneven older dance. According to legend, an epidemic of tarantula poisonings spread throughthe town of Taranto. The victims (tarantata) were typically farm women or others whose dailylife might reasonably bring them into contact with the kinds of spiders that run in the fields.These supposed victims of spider bites would dance while villagers playedmandolinsor tambourines. Various rhythms were used until one worked, vigorous dancing ensued, andeventually the tarantata was cured. This dance is a staple of some old-fashionedSouthern Italian weddings.
Dancing the tarantella alone was said to be unlucky, and thus it was always a couple’sdance, involving either a man and a woman, or two women. The tarantella is acircle dance,performed clockwise until the music in the set changes to become faster, after which everyonechanges direction. This cycle occurs several times, eventually becoming so fast that it is verydifficult to keep up with the beat. The music is generally led by amandolin.For the costume, the men wear close-fitting, knee length pants with buttons near thebottom, white shirts with ties at the neck and long sashes wrapped around the waist and shortdecorative jackets. Women wear long sleeved, below the knee dresses with patterned apronstied at the waist.
Did you know?
The tarantella was featured in the Godfather.
Many great composers such as Franz Liszt, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff etc composedpieces of music they titled the tarantella.
"Tarantallegra" is a jinxin
books which causes the opponent's legs tomove rapidly and uncontrollably, hinting that the incantation of this jinx might be basedon the tarantella dance. This jinx is first introduced in
, in the Dueling Club scene. Incidentally, spiders also play a central part in thesame book.