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TARANTATA! - SPIDER DANCE
Created and directed by Alessandra Belloni
With I Guillari di Piazza Performance Troupe
At Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC
Reviewed June 29, 2016 by Larry Litt
The Feast of the Tarantati is performed every June 29th in Southern Italy. It’s an ancient music and dance healing ritual for physically and mentally distraught women. We’re told they suffer from heartache often caused by soured relationships. Tarantata’s purpose is to release the poison and venom from body and soul. These conditions were often attributed to a tarantula spider’s bite.
"Tarantata! Spider Dance" performed by Alessandra Belloni and I Giullari di Piazza at Cathedral of St. John's the Divine, June 29, 2016. L-R: Greta Campo, Francesca Silvano, Mark Mindek, Jillian Guinta. Photo by Tim Esteves.
Alessandra Belloni and her dance performance troupe I Guillari di Piazza have taken this ritual to new heights of music, movement and supercharged theatricality. In an hour and a half I experienced the pain ofunrequited love. Then I was shocked and delighted at the physical catharsis from the depths of despair.
Most interesting to me is Ms Belloni’s use of hand percussion instruments leading her musicians. She’s a talented frame drum and tambor player and composer, keeping the pace of the performance at a high level of motion and intensity. Other frame drummers would do well to take lessons from her.
"Tarantata! Spider Dance" performed by Alessandra Belloni and I Giullari di Piazza at Cathedral of St. John's the Divine, June 29, 2016. L-R: Jillian Guinta, Francesca Silvano, Luisa Focella, Alessandra Belloni, Greta Campo, Wilson Montuori, Joe Deninzon. Photo by Remy.
Of course there’s a folk music and dance element in this ritual’s unveiling. This ritual is folk medicine for groups of simply costumed supremely elegant women dancers. Francesca Silvano, Greta Campo and Jillian Guinta exude pain and energy simultaneously. Watching them with my male gaze I could understand their aching from cupid’s arrow often leading to the tarantulas’s vicious aftermath. Love isn’t meant to hurt but often does. Does it hurt men as well as women? Is there a man’s ritual to cure love’s heartaches?
Without the I Guillari di Piazza well versed musicians this ritual wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying a theatrical event. However it’s Giuseppe De Falco as an ‘a capella’ Neapolitan singer who sets the mood. His haunting voice aches with love and loss as only a man of experience can.
There are many theatrical surprises in this ritual that add dramatic magic and transcendence. If you can wait until next June 29 don’t miss this. You will be healed and happy.
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