As a native of Rome, I have long been fascinated by the ancient music, dance, and traditions of Southern Italy and beyond. My music/dance presentation of Tarantata — Spider Dance — comes after years of research in towns in Italy where these exorcisms and songs to the Black Madonna did, and still do, take place. My company's concert I Giullari di Piazza (The Jesters of the Square) on June 29th, which re-enacts an ancient Tarantati Trance Ritual, corresponds to the ritual held every June 29 in the small church of St. Paul of Galantina in Apulia (in the "boot" of Italy) for many centuries.
Photo courtesy of the artist
The ceremony, or exorcism, is held for the benefit of mainly women who suffered from a form of depression or psychiatric disorder that was attributed to the bite of the tarantula, which was, in reality, a condition caused by abuse, repressed sexuality, powerlessness, and the feeling of being caught in a web. Our performance re-enacts the healing journey of a "tarantata" as she is taken by Dionysus to the Shaman, who cures her with a "pizzica tarantata," a wild erotic trance dance. All the tarantati, dressed in white, gathered in the church and danced in a frenzy to the 6/8 rhythm of the Tarantella, releasing their last cries of madness and anguish. It's an ancient journey that also includes the procession of the Black Madonna, an icon known in Southern Italy and Brazil who symbolizes womanhood and provides miraculous release.
My musicians, singers and dancers are all schooled in ancient Southern Italian music, dance and rituals, and include Neapolitan singer Giuseppe De Falco, a native of Naples and dancers Caterina Rago, Greta Campo, Amara, and Mark Mindek. Musicians play electric and acoustic violin and guitar, flute, piccolo, recorder, tambourines, frame drums, and other traditional percussion instruments.