Tarantella Spider Trance Dance for Halloween in New York

Alessandra Belloni
Alessandra Belloni
World Music Institute and I Giullari di Piazza celebrate Halloween/Festa dei Morti (Feast of the Dead) Friday, October 30 at Peter Norton Symphony Space with a program of ecstatic dances, musical exorcisms, and the tarantella trance dance. 

The program includes excerpts from the company’s production “Tarantella – Spider Dance” which feature the wild erotic dance ritual (pizzica tarantata) from Southern Italy used to cure the mythical bite of the tarantula (“the bite of love”). This ancient healing trance dance and exorcism was used to cure a mental disorder called tarantismo, which afflicted mainly women, who felt stuck in the spider web of their society.

The program also includes the tarantella delle streghe (witches’ dance) from the Renaissance; the medieval danza della morte, the spinning dance of death performed on stilts; powerful ritual drumming and healing chants in honor of the Black Madonna; lullabies; love ballads; and original songs by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera, the group’s co-founders and directors.

Alessandra Belloni (vocals, percussion, ritual dance) and John La Barbera (chitarra battente – Renaissance folk guitar, mandolin) are joined by Steve Gorn (clarinet, saxophone, bansuri flute), Joe Deninzon (violin, vocal), Wilson Montuori (guitars), Vinnie Scialla and Gordon Gottlieb (percussion), choreographer/dancer Antonio Fini, stilt dancer Mark Mindek, acrobatic dancer Fran Sperling. and dancers Francesca Silvano, Caterina Rago, and Greta Campo. Nando Citarella, the famed Neapolitan folk singer who is the founder of Italy’s Tamburi del Vesuvio, appears as special guest artist.

I Giullari di Piazza (“The Jesters of the Court”) is celebrating its 30th anniversary.  Devoted to presenting authentic Southern Italian music/dance/theater dating back to the 13th century, the group also creates new musical and theatrical works based on folk music and dance, ritual theater, and commedia dell’ arte. The group’s founders spent many years researching the songs, dances and ritual chants of southern Italy.

The Italian-born Alessandra Belloni, called a “Mediterranean volcano,” is regarded as an important voice in traditional southern Italian music and dance today. She is the only woman in the US and in Italy who specializes in traditional Southern Italian folk dances and percussion that she learned from tradition bearers in Southern Italy. For over 20 years she participated in drumming festivals in remote areas of Southern Italy, held as rituals of purification in honor of the Black Madonna. She was voted as one of the top percussionists in the worldbeat category by Drum magazine and has toured worldwide, appearing at major festivals and venues.

John La Barbera is an award-winning composer and recognized as one of the first transcribers of Southern Italian folk music in America. The composer of original folk operas for I Giullari di Piazza, he has also written works for such documentary films as Sacco and Vanzetti (2007) and the Academy Award-nominated Children of Fate (1992).

I Giullari de Piazza spent ten years in residence at the Center for Italian Studies at New York University, and has been artist-in-residence for 15 years at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The group’s acclaimed productions include Tarantella – Spider Dance; Stabat Mater: Donna de Paradiso, the Easter Opera; The Dance of the Ancient Spider, a trip into the world of exorcisms; The Voyage of the Black Madonna, depicting Virgil’s trip around the world in search of the Black Madonna; The Adventures of Don Giovanni and His Servant Pulcinella, performed in commedia dell’arte style; and La Cantata dei Pastori, the humorous Christmas show that was performed as it has been for hundreds of years in street presentations in Naples.

The company has toured Italy and the US, appearing at such venues as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, Madison Square Garden, the Smithsonian Institute, the Metropolitan Museum, Giants Stadium, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was featured in Spider Sex, a National Geographic documentary on spiders in which the group performed an authentic tarantella as a healing trance ritual. 

The company can be heard on many recordings, including Tarantelle e Canti d’Amore (Naxos World) and Tarantata: The Dance of the Ancient Spider (Sounds True), which was named one of the best world music CDs of the year (2002) in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

This program is part of Daniel Pearl World Music Days, an annual global event dedicated to the ideals of tolerance, friendship and a shared humanity. www.danielpearl.org

The program is supported, in part, by public funds provided by the New York State Council for the Arts, a State agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Friday, October 30, 2009; at 8:00 PM
Peter Norton Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th Street, NYC
$25; students with college ID $18, Box office (212) 864-5400
Info/tickets (212) 545-7536

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central

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