Tarantella

  

The tarantella (tarentule, tarentella, tarantel) is a dance in 6/8 time characterised by the rapid whirling of couples. It is named after Taranto in southern Italy, and/or after the tarantula spider (Lycosa tarantula) whose bite was allegedly deadly and could be cured only by frenetic dancing. The tarantula is sometimes replaced by other arachnids, such as the painful Wolf Spider. Whatever the species, its bite was said to cause hallucinogenic effects which were warded off by the performance of the dance. In some versions of the legend, the venom itself caused the dancer to move uncontrollably. In any case, neither the wolf spider nor tarantulas have dangerous bites, so there is no need to dance to ward off any ill effects. There are no arachnids known to have hallucinogenic venom. Regional variations on the tarantella abound, with the versions from Naples and Sicily probably the most widespread. It is a staple of Italian weddings, and is also the theme song of some Italian restaurants and has appeared in films such as The Godfather
The tarantella can be traced back to the Middle Ages and may have evolved from an even older dance. According to legend, an epidemic of tarantula poisoning spread through the town of Taranto. The victims (tarantata) were lower-class women, and would dance while villagers played mandolins or tambourines. Various rhythms were used until one worked, and the tarantata was cured.
Dancing the tarantella alone was said to be unlucky, and thus it was always a group dance, either a couple or two females. The tarantella is a circle dance, performed clockwise until the music in the set changes to become faster, after which everyone changes direction. This occurs several times, eventually becoming very difficult to keep up with the beat. The music is generally led by a mandolin, which is a stringed instrument similar to a guitar
 

 
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