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Thursday, 18 October 2007

Not only tarantella

This post might be of interest to all those Italo-Americans or just those simply curious about Sicilian folklore and tradition.

Call me a perfectionist, but being Sicilian I like to make my traditions straight : Tarantella is indeed the most known Southern Italian dance, but not necessarily Sicilian.

In fact, in Sicily, Tarantella acquired special characteristics in different regions of the island, resulting in a wide range of colourful dances, steps and choreographies.

Some examples :

The roots of this traditional dance stem from ties to Cerere (Ceres), goddess of agriculture and abundance, in gratitude for the harvest at year's end.
It is performed by 24 dancers divided in 12 couples representing 12 months of the year. Each dancer hands a coloured silk ribbon linked to a pole. They dance swirling around the pole and combining the ribbons choreographically in four figures that will represent the four phases of the seeding, the sprouting, the cropping and harvesting of wheat throughout the year.

It was brought to Sicily by the Moors. You can see the influence of the Moors in the use of the shawls (to cover the heads of the women), the small lady-like steps taken, and the use of bells to emphasis the beat. It is composed only of women with a focus on the elder of the group.

The Feast del TaratatĂ  in Casteltermini (Agrigento) is probably less known but it’s a great event too, with Arab influences in terms of rhythms, costumes and scenes.
The dance is only performed by men that dance holding and clinging long swords to each other, without losing the rhythm of the beating drums.
Casteltermini (AG) - every last Sunday of May.

Characterised by the rapid whirling of couples, this dance originated in the Agrigento area.
It is an exciting combination of graceful slow movements and peppy, quick steps.
The Tambourine is used.
Includes a backward skipping step called the Saltarello. There are some flirtatious mannerisms found in this dance.
Another typical of 6/8 or 4/4 time dance originating in Agrigento and dances on the occasion of the feast of San Calogero (from 01/07/2007 to 08/07/2007).

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