If while walking through the streets of region Apulia, you inevitably start dancing and you feel you can’t stop, then you’re listening to Tarantella!
The Tarantella is mainly a partner dance, which features numerous twirls and spins. The weird name, probabily comes from a kind of wolf spider, called “tarantula”, whose bite was popularly believed to be highly poisonous and to lead to a hysterical condition known as “tarantism”.
Some say that someone who had supposedly been bitten by the tarantula spider had to dance to an upbeat tempo to sweat the poison out. Yet, there’s no suggestion that a spider existed in Italy that could cause depression or delusions!
Through the years, Tarantella has become a kind of courtship dance. Usually music for the tarantella is in 6/8 or 3/4 time, or you may find some versions in 4/4 time with a lot of triplets. Though the dance is partnered, many of the steps are danced away from each other, and steps together are often taken with the partners side to side instead of face to face. As a matter of fact, years ago it was disreputable that men and women would touch each other in the public, especially if they weren’t married. So Tarantella was a way to court each other, without breaking traditions or being ashamed.
The woman teases the man by dancing all around him (mainly barefooted) and voluptuously passing a scarf around his neck and the man replies by putting his hands around her, always paying attention not to touch her. They dance according to the characteristic steps, which remind of small, rythmical jumps. The dance goes on like this till the end, in an exciting swirl of music.
We warmly recommend you to attend a show with Tarantella music and dance: even if you are not a dance lover, the rythm of the music, beaten by typical southern instruments like tambourines and castanets, will involve you so much, that you can just start dancing and at the end of the show, you’ll feel part of this magic land.
Never attended a Taranta show? Watch this video!