Tarantism is a condition found in southern Italy that results from the bite of the wolf spider or tarantula. Its symptoms include nausea, speaking difficulties, delirium, heightened excitability and restlessness. The bodies of those who have been bitten are seized by convulsions. At one time it was thought that it could only be cured through a sort of frenzied dancing. Even the Bishop of Polignano, who in the 17th century allowed himself to be bitten in order to disprove the cure, felt compelled to dance to relieve his symptoms.
The “dancing cure” called the tarantella emerged during the Middle Ages as a local phenomenon in and around the city of Galatina, Puglia, and was widespread throughout the region until the middle of the 20th century. The dance developed from a form of uncoordinated movements, in which people would “quiver and hurl their heads, shake their knees, grind their teeth and make the actions of madmen,”1 into today’s highly stylized dance for couples.
Joachim Koester’s interest in tarantism is tied to its original sense: a dance of uncontrolled and compulsive movements, spasms and convulsions. In Tarantism he has utilized this idea to generate the movements of dancers, who explore, in six individually choreographed parts, what might be called the body’s terra incognita.
PALAZZO DELLE POSTE, VIA S.S. TRINITA’ 27, I-38100 TRENTO, ITALYmore