Italy is known as a nation which enjoys and celebrates the good things in life – food, drinks, friends and obviously dancing!
One of the most recognised types of dancing is the southern Italian traditional dance, called tarantella, characterized by a fast-upbeat tempo and accompanied by tambourines. The word itself is the name of a poisonous "wolf spider" (Lycosa tarantula), which can be found quite commonly in south Italy. The spider bite, according to ancient folk beliefs, used to cause violent psychomotor crises.
The typical movements of the dance are inspired by the motions and movements that were meant to shake out the “tarantolato” (the victim of the tarantula) from the delirium state. Don’t worry though, cause nowadays, whenever you are in an Apulian field, even if the tarantula is said to be poisonous and the bite can be quite painful, it is harmless to humans and it doesn't really cause any effects.
A sub-category of the Tarantella is the Pizzica (sting), which is the local Apulian Tarantella. The pizzica was traditionally performed by couples: either by a man and a woman or during family celebrations, by siblings or relatives. When the Pizzica is performed by two men it becomes a competitive dance, during which the performers constantly try to upstage each other by trying to dance faster or longer than their partner. In the traditional Pizzica dance, you use a tissue (fazzoletto) to invite the chosen partner to dance.
La Notte della Taranta
To celebrate this tradition, every year, the Apulian region organizes la Notte della Taranta - a folk music festival whose goal is to celebrate and enhance traditional music and dances. The festival starts on the third of August and takes place in an itinerant form throughout the Salento peninsula. Each city offers a different program with concerts, dance performances and cultural activities, such as photo screenings and exhibitions. The highlight of the Tour is the main concert on the 25th of August in Melpignano. The Notte della Taranta finishes there with a big event hosting national and international singers and artists.
The most pleasant thing about the Tarantella is that there is no right or wrong, therefore no counting steps or missing beats. Nowadays it is purely about enjoying life and it is indifferent whether it is danced individually, in groups or with a partner. After all, the goal of the whole tradition is to shake off our everyday stress rather than the spider poison (which is the reason why those dances started in the past).
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