The Dance of the Tarantella – Potion for Poetry, Romance and Magic

Taranto, the former Spartan colony of Taranto, as a strategic city and port in southern Italy, has never ceased to be rich in history, culture and traditions. How did Taranto combine Spartan military training with Athenian entertainment arts? Taranto began as a home for single Spartan women and free men. The location was chosen by Sparta after consulting the Oracle of Delphi. The joyous dance in honor of the Greek god Dionysus became the origin of the tarantella steps. Taranto became an important place for trade back then, during medieval times, and it still is today.

During the 17th century, the harvest in the suburbs of Taranto was plagued by tarantulas, the wolf spiders, while the church prohibited dancing as a source of sin. The irritant injected by the tarantulas was apparently very uncomfortable and caused the victim (tarantato/tarantata) to go into a trance. The doctors of the time, knowing the need for fun of the people, prescribed Tarantella, a frenetic and frenetic dance as the best treatment for tarantism.

Tarantella became popular when a young woman, Miranda, fell in love with a young farmer, Matteo, who was both handsome and shy. He went to see an old gypsy woman for help. The gypsy advised the young woman to pretend to be hit by a tarantula as an opportunity for the young man to dance with her. The young man, who wanted the young woman in exchange for her, dropped a tarantula near Miranda while they were both working in the fields. The tarantula bit the girl’s foot. The girl went into a trance. Matteo danced with Miranda until he was sweating profusely, which was followed by a swim in the sea to cool off. Having to dance for at least a full week to make sure all the poison had been sweated out, Miranda and Matteo became very close and fell in love. Later they got married. This was the Tarantella Pizzica (spider bite): a cure for romantic and physical ills.

Cities were prohibited from military training under Spanish rule, so local men devised the Tarantella Scherma, a dance with martial arts steps. Later, harvests and civil occasions promoted the Tarantella del Core, the courtship dance with flirtatious steps added.

Composers turned the Tarantella into musical masterpieces: Gioacchino Rossini, Frederic Chopin, Pyotr Ilvich Thcaikovski, Franz Liszt, Carl Maria Weber and the contemporary Mark-Anthony Turnage. Poems have even been written to illustrate the charm of the Tarantella such as Hilaire Belloc’s Tarantella. As long as there are tarantulas that incite people to dance and fall in love, the tarantella will captivate the public with its charm and amorous joy. The Tarantella has been a traditional dance at Italian weddings. Tarantella contests and Tarantella shows are quite common. The Gauthier Ballet Troupe, The Armando Curcio Company and other groups entertain audiences with Tarantella extravaganzas. Several regional styles of Tarantella can be viewed on Pugliese, Calabrese, Sicilian, and Napolitan. Long live the Tarantella and long live love and lovers!

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