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Texts by Elisabetta D'Errico
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Pizzica, taranta, danza delle spade and orther local traditions
Pizzica, much more than a dance
Pizzica is a popular traditional dance originally born in the Salento peninsula and later spread throughout all of the Puglia region. It is part of the large family of the tarantella dances. Nowadays it has become the most famous popular and folk music in the world, and the strange thing is even young people love it and love to dance to the beating rythms.

Traditional pizzica is danced with a partner. Note that the dance must not necessarily involve two individuals of the opposite sex; often enough, two women can be seen dancing together.

It is a kind of therapeutical dance. Its origins lie in the old ritual of “tarantate” which was performed for the first time on 29th June in the little Chapel of St. Paul in Galatina (St. Paul, indeed, protected people if they were bit by poisonous animals). It was like an exorcism-mass which sometimes happened at home, with the help of tambourines, violins, harmonicas and other instruments. During the ritual the patient (generally a woman) danced for long hours under an epileptic fit caused by poison, until she lost consciousness and fell heavily to the ground. Finally she rested, but the effect of poison was felt again the following summer.

There are several traditional pizzica groups, the oldest being: Officina Zoé, Uccio Aloisi Gruppu, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, I Tamburellisti di Torrepaduli.

The most popular festival of "pizzica" is the "Notte della Taranta". It has been held in Melpignano since 1998, always in the second half of August, in the square where thousands of people from all over Italy (and even Europe) come and see the big concert during which people sing, play and dance “pizzica” in all its ardour and passion. Several rock stars have appreciated this music, such as Stewart Copeland of the Police, Noa, Nabil Salameh, Gianna Nannini, Franco Battiato, Francesco De Gregori and Piero Pelů. This event has become very important for our musical culture; the big concert of Melpignano is only the last one and the climax of a series of concerts starting from the second week of August in various towns. It emphasizes the importance that folk music has achieved in our territory where it is seen like a liberating outburst.

Want to see some examples of pizzica?

Danza delle spade (sword dance)
The “Sword dance” (also called “fencing dance”) is an original type of dancing which originates from an old ritual of challenge by knife practiced by quarrelsome men at fairs or markets. They challenged each other to defend their honour and pride.
You can see this very particular folk dance in Torrepaduli during the "San Rocco" feast in august.
It is like a big meeting where lots of people arrange themselves in circles (called “ronde”) making room for dancers and musicians. Dancers make this dance haughty and elegant and move their fingers like knives, respecting precise rules while dancing, going into the circle in the right moment and giving way to old people who preserve above all the originality of movements: for example they never turn their back on each other and only two dancers at a time stay in the middle. If you want to go to this fiesta you had better to arrive in the early afternoon to avoid the traffic of cars and people on the main road to the Sanctuary.

Want to see two dancers?

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