[It is always better to go into any experience well informed. The tarantella is a dance with many forms and applications, including classical music–but predominately it is based upon a legend of dancing for healing purposes. Care has to be exercised in how it is applied as its application can be frenzied, competitive dancing.] This is not a far cry from what already occurs at concerts except its intensity may be greater. It is probably subject in this particular case to the interpretation of this artist, Kim Junsu. [Editors Note]
Allegro: Quickly; Happily: Fast [Merriam-Websters 11th Collegiate Dictionary]
The Tarantella is an Italian Folk dance. The traditional Italian Tarantella dance is said to have originated between the 15th and 17th centuries. The beginning of the dance is related to a disease called tarantism. Tarantism is a hysterical state in which victims bitten by tarantulas convulse and dance for lengthy periods of time. [according to legend] They must dance in order to sweat the poison out. Today, the tarantella is danced in many traditional Italian weddings and parties. Over the centuries, many pieces of instrumental music have been written in honor of the dance, and it has been featured in films such as “The Godfather.” Learning how to perform it can come from books, personal instruction or videos.
Tarantella dance has roots in ancient Greece. It was a ritualistic dance in honor of the god of music and sun, apollo, and god of wine, dionysius. Ancient Greeks settled in Italy, and continued this beautiful dance to this day.
In the Italian Taranto, apulia, the bite of a locally common type of wolf spider, named “tarantula” after the region, was popularly believed to be highly poisonous and to lead to a hysterical condition known as tarantism. The stated belief in the 16th and 17th centuries was that victims needed to engage in frenzied dancing to prevent death from tarantism using a very rhythmic and fast music. The particular type of dance and the music played became known as tarantella. The oldest documents mentioning the relationship between musical exorcism and the tarantula are dated around 1100. John Compton has proposed that ancient Bacchalian rites that had been suppressed by the Roman Senate in 186 BC went underground, reappearing under the guise of emergency therapy for bite victims. The tradition persists in the area, and is known as “Neo-Tarantism. Many young artists, groups and famous musicians are continuing to keep the tradition alive. The music is very different—its tempo is faster, for one thing—but it has similar hypnotic effects, especially when people are exposed to the rhythm for a long period of time. The music is used in the therapy of patients with certain forms of depression and hysteria, and its effects on the endocrine system recently became an object of research.
 Courtship vs Tarantism dances
The stately courtship tarantella danced by a couple or couples, short in duration, is graceful and elegant and features characteristic music. On the other hand, the supposedly curative or symptomatic tarantella was danced solo by a supposed victim of a “tarantula” bite; it was agitated in character, lasted for hours or even up to days, and featured characteristic music. However, other forms of the dance were and still are couple dances (not necessarily a couple of different sexes) usually either mimicking courtship or a sword fight. The confusion appears to arrive from the fact that the spiders, the condition, its sufferers (“tarantolati”), and the dances all have similar names to the city of Taranto. The first dance originated in the Naples region and spread next to Apulia,Basilicata and Calabria, all part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The Neapolitan tarantella is a courtship dance performed by couples whose “rhythms, melodies, gestures, and accompanying songs are quite distinct” featuring faster more cheerful music. Its origins may further lie in “a fifteenth-century fusion between the Spanish Fandango and the Moresque ‘ballo di sfessartia’.” The “magico-religious” tarantella is a solo dance performed supposedly to cure through perspiration the delirium and contortions attributed to the bite of a spider at harvest (summer) time. The dance was later applied as a supposed cure for the behavior of neurotic women (” ‘Carnevaletto delle donne’ “).The original legend tells that someone who had supposedly been bitten by the trantula (or the meditteranean black widow) spider had to dance to an upbeat tempo to sweat the poison out.
Reportedly, victims who had collapsed or were convulsing would begin to dance with appropriate music and be revived as if a tarantula had bitten them. The music used to treat dancing mania appears to be similar to that used in the case of tarantism though little is known about either. Justus Hecker (1795–1850), describes in his work Epidemics of the Middle Ages:
A convulsion infuriated the human frame […]. Entire communities of people would join hands, dance, leap, scream, and shake for hours […]. Music appeared to be the only means of combating the strange epidemic […] lively, shrill tunes, played on trumpets and fifes, excited the dancers; soft, calm harmonies, graduated from fast to slow, high to low, prove efficacious for the cure.
The music used against spider bites featured drums and clarinets, was matched to the pace of the victim, and is only weakly connected to its later depiction in the tarantellas of Chopin, Liszt, Rossini, and Heller.
While most serious proponents speculated as to the direct physical benefits of the dancing rather than the power of the music a mid-18th century medical textbook gets the prevailing story backwards describing that tarantulas will be compelled to dance by violin music. It was thought that the Lycosa tarantula wolf spider had lent the name “tarantula” to an unrelated family of spiders having been the species associated with Taranto, but since the lycosa tarantula is not inherently deadly in summer or in winter, the highly poisonous Mediterranean black widow (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus) may have been the species originally associated with Taranto’s manual grain harvest.
The Tarantella is a dance in which the dancer and the drum player constantly try to upstage each other by dancing longer or playing faster than the other, subsequently tiring one person out first.
 Grand Tarantelle ballet
The Balanchine ballet Tarantella is set to Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 67 (ca. 1866) by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, reconstructed and orchestrated by Hershy Kay. The nimble quickness of Tarantella provides a virtuosic showcase. The profusion of steps and the quick changes of direction this brief but explosive pas de deux requires typify the ways in which Balanchine expanded the traditional vocabulary of classical dance.
 Notable tarantellas
 Classical music
- Benjamin Britten wrote a tarantella as the third movement of his Sinfonietta for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 1.
- Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote a Tarantella for solo guitar, Op. 87b
- Frédéric Chopin wrote a Tarantelle in A-flat, Op. 43 with the characteristic 6/8 time signature. It was inspired specifically by Rossini’s‘s song “La Danza“
- John Corigliano wrote a Tarantella as the fourth movement of his Gazebo Dances.
- Claude Debussy wrote a piece called “Danse (Tarantelle styrienne).”
- Leopold Godowsky transcribed Chopin‘s Etude Op. 10, No. 5 “Black Key” into a tarentella for the piano.
- Helmut Lachenmann‘s twelfth movement of Tanzsuite mit Deutschlandlied (1979–80) is Tarantelle.
- Franz Liszt composed a piece called “Tarantella, Venezia e Napoli” (No. 3 from Années de pèlerinage, 2nd Year: Italy), which is in a rapid tempo also in 6/8 time.
- Felix Mendelssohn wrote a piece called “Tarantella” in 1845 (Op. 102, No. 3). The final movement of his Italian Symphony is in the form of a tarantella.
- David Popper wrote a piece called Tarantella (Op. 33), written in 6/8 time.
- The fourth of Sergei Prokofiev‘s twelve easy pieces for piano—Musique d’Enfants, Op. 65—is a Tarantella.
- Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos, Op. 17, features a tarantella for its finale.
- Gioachino Rossini‘s song “La Danza” is a Neapolitan tarantella.
- Camille Saint-Saëns composed “Tarantella” Op. 6 in A minor for flute, clarinet and orchestra, or for flute, clarinet and piano. He also transcribed this piece for two pianos.
- The last movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor by Camille Saint-Saëns is a tarantella.
- Pablo de Sarasate composed an Introduction and Tarantella for violin.
- Franz Schubert‘s Death and the Maiden Quartet uses a tarantella in the frenetic fourth movement.
- Franz Schubert‘s Piano Sonata in C minor, last movement, is a tarantella/rondo.
- The fourth movement of Schubert’s Symphony No. 3 is also a tarantella, but following the Sonata form.
- William Henry Squire wrote a tarantella for cello in D minor.
- The firth movement of Igor Stravinsky‘s Suite italienne is a tarantella.
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s Capriccio Italien ends in a frenzied variation of a tarantella. Also, one of his Pas de Deux in The Nutcracker features a tarantella.
- Mark-Anthony Turnage composed a violin concerto entitled Mambo, Blues and Tarantella in 2007, with the tarantella being the finale.
- Henryk Wieniawski composed a well-known violin masterpiece, called Scherzo-Tarantella, Op. 16
- Tarantella for Piano and Orchestra was composed by American composer Michael Glenn Williams for pianist Sean Chen
- The last movement of Malcolm Williamson‘s Sinfonietta (1965) is a tarantella.
- Albert Pieczonka wrote the classical piece titled Tarantella.
- The main theme to the Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest, composed by Bernard Herrmann, is itself a tarantella. Herrmann claimed that he was inspired by lead actor Cary Grant, because he “walked like a tarantula.” Grant’s distinctive walk may perhaps be attributed to his pre-Hollywood years as a stiltwalker.
 Other uses
- In literature
- In film
- The Fairy Godmother’s song Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo from Disney’s Cinderella is a tarantella.
- It has appeared in feature films such as The Godfather.
- In The Godfather II, Frankie Pentangeli tries to get the band playing at Michael’s son’s 1st communion party(whose members are not Italian) to play a tarantella. They end up playing “Pop Goes the Weasel” instead.
- The dance is referenced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where it is the result of a magical curse.
- It is also in the soundtrack to Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino.
- It has appeared in the musical version of Peter Pan with Mary Martin and is danced by Captain Hook and his band of pirates, illustrating the above mentioned occasional association with swordfights vis à vis the metaphor of pirates. In this performance, which is available on film and DVD, the context is silly fun.
- It has appeared in The Legend of 1900 when some immigrants request 1900 to playing tarantella music
- In games
- A tarantella was part of the soundtrack for 2009 game Assassin’s Creed II
- One level of Earthworm Jim 2, “Puppy Love” uses both a tarentella and Funiculì, Funiculà as music.
 See also
- ^ Blatter, Alfred (2007). Revisiting music theory: a guide to the practice, p.28. ISBN 0-415-97440-2.
- ^ Morehead, P.D., Bloombury Dictionary of Music, London, Bloombury, 1992
- ^ Linnaeus would name the spider Lycosa tarantula in 1758
- ^ John Compton. The Life of the Spider. Mentor Books (1954), p. 56f.
- ^ Toschi, Paolo (1950). Proceedings of the Congress Held in Venice September 7th to 11th, 1949: “A Question about the Tarantella”, Journal of the International Folk Music Council, Vol. 2. (1950), p. 19. Translated by N. F.
- ^ Ettlinger, Ellen (1965). Review of “La Tarantella Napoletana” by Renato Penna (Rivista di Etnografia), Man, Vol. 65. (Sep. – Oct., 1965), p. 176.
- ^ Hecker, Justus. Quoted in Sear, H. G. (1939).
- ^ Sear, H. G. (1939). “Music and Medicine”, p.45, Music & Letters, Vol. 20, No. 1. (Jan., 1939), pp. 43–54. Note that Sear may mistake the Neapolitan and Apulian tarantellas and that those by Romantic composers to which he refers may have been intended as Neapolitan.
- ^ a b Rishton, Timothy J. (1984). “Plagiarism, Fiddles and Tarantulas”, The Musical Times, Vol. 125, No. 1696. (Jun., 1984), pp. 325–327.
 External links
- Word of the Day: Tarantula and Tarantella, etymology and folklore
- RHYTHM IS THE CURE
- Sicilian Culture: Tarantella Dance
- The tarantella dance!
- Dance the ‘Viddaneddha’
- Tarantella, Tarantella
- YouTube Video: Draga Matkovic, oldest practicing classical pianist of the world, plays her own Tarantella composition from 1927 on her 102nd birthday, November 4, 2009.
- Tarantella’s history