One of the most beautiful Sicilian traditions, involving young and old, is a typical dance: the tarantella.
The melody of the Sicilian tarantella tells stories of other times. This type of dance and melody is typical of all of Southern Italy and the first historical source dates back to the early 17th century. The term tarantella derives from “taranta”, a dialectal term used to indicate the tarantula, a poisonous spider from southern Europe, as well as being linked to “tarantism” a pathology caused by the bite of spiders or other poisonous animals. The tarantella was danced during pagan public holidays and, after the Middle Ages, the frenetic rhythm was considered a healing practice, a sort of exorcism to drive out demons. Over time, original music and dances have undergone several changes, evolving as a couple or collective dance, danced on different holidays.
There are different types of tarantella, according to the area of Sicily you visit, closely related to the traditions and peculiarities of the various territories. There are dances for the carnival, for the courtship, for the grape harvest, for the traditional village festivals or to honor the patron saints of the various countries and cities and for any other type of celebration.
The Sicilian tarantella is almost always danced in pairs, with traditional costumes full of colors and pon pon and the instruments used are mainly accordion, flute, the marranzano, tambourine, and guitar.
Since there are many versions, we focus our attention on a typical tarantella, highly appreciated for its pressing rhythm: U Ballu a chiovu. This is a typical Sicilian tarantella danced during the harvest period. At the end of a hard working day, the farmers gathered in the farmyard and accompanied by typical instruments performed this dance. The name is due to the fact that while performing the steps, the feet always tap the heels at the same point. In other words, jumps are made with open legs, which cross on the ground. Usually, this is danced with a partner and the man enjoys teasing the woman often making jokes, moves, and reverences; dancers approach and, passing from one point to another, hold hands.
Even today we can see these dances in the squares or village festivals, performed by the many folk groups that carry on the tradition of tarantella not only in all the Sicilian provinces but also in all the cities of the world. Impossible not to get involved in the dance of the tarantella! We assure you that music will pleasantly transport you to an ancient world, made of traditions, which rejoice the body, mind, and soul.
What else to add? Buona tarantella a tutti!
Photos: edited by folk group Taormina