If you come across a group of people dancing frenetically in the Salento area of Puglia, odds on it won't be a rave, but a pizzica pizzica, a kind of tarantella peculiar to the province of Lecce.
Shrouded in myth and legend and dating back many hundreds if not thousands of years, this dance was thought to have been the only cure for a tarantula bite, or, metaphorically, for someone possessed by the devil...
When the alarm went that someone had been bitten, usually while working in the fields, the local band would pick up their instruments (traditionally violins, mandolins, guitar, flute, accordion and large tambourine) and rush to the house of the afflicted.
This important folk tradition is celebrated each year in August in a festival called La Notte della Taranta.
Once there they would begin to play, slowly at first, while the patient, usually in a high fever by this time, began the dance. As the music got faster, so too did the steps of the dancer, whose aim was to expel the poison (or malignant spirit) through sheer force of motion and perspiration. Often family and other villagers would join in in a show of solidarity.
The dance would continue prestissimo until the main protagonist collapsed to the floor, utterly exhausted, but hopefully cured.
Other versions of the dance exist, including more romantic ones requiring a partner, but the real excitement comes when purification and/or exorcism is called for.
This important folk tradition is celebrated each year in August in a festival called La Notte della Taranta. The towns and villages of Grecìa Salentina, the area south of Lecce and west of Otranto, all come together, hosting concerts, dancing and all-out parties.
Musicians and bands from around the world are invited to take part, and recent editions have seen the likes of Stewart Copeland, Joe Zawinul and the Buena Vista Social Club.
For more information visit their official site.
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