Although folklore often attributes the tarantella name to the dance's supposed ability to cure the bite of the tarantula spider, the name of the Italian folk dance comes from Taranto, Italy, the place it began. The light and lively dance is typically performed by couples is known for being flirtatious in nature. The dance is accompanied by a tambourine.
Facing front, cross your right foot in front of the left. Cross your left foot in front of the right. Step your right foot to the side, step your left foot to the side. Repeat this while the woman shakes the tambourine in a clockwise circle in front of her body.
Place your hands on your hips, kick the right foot out to the front keeping it low to the ground, then step on the right foot putting weight on it, slightly in front of the left foot. Touch the ball of your left foot to the ground (without putting your full weight on it) then step in place with the right foot. This sequence is called the tarantella step. Repeat this sequence beginning with a left-foot low, front kick. Repeat again beginning right, then repeat once more beginning with the left. Perform this sequence three more times, traveling backward slightly.
Face your partner. The woman hits the tambourine to her left shoulder, her left hip, then her right hip. Repeat this, making a triangle across the body. Tap the left hand twice with the tambourine. Perform the tarantella step forward twice, beginning with the right foot kick, so that your right shoulders pass each other. Dance the tarantella step twice moving backwards to return to the starting position. This back and forth sequence can be referred to as a "do-si-do." Moving the tambourine twice as quickly, the woman taps her left shoulder then right hip. Repeat this tambourine sequence, then tap the left hand twice with the tambourine. Repeat the "do-si-do."
The man holds the tambourine in his left hand and kneels on his right knee, tapping the tambourine for seven counts of music on his right hip. On count eight, tap it twice. The man continues to kneel for eight more counts of music. Meanwhile, the woman places her hands on her hips and dances eight tarantella steps in place.
The man remains in the kneeling position for the next 16 counts of music, but with the tambourine now shaking above his head. The woman performs eight Tarantella steps forward in a counterclockwise circle around the kneeling man.
Two couples stand opposite each other with right hands reaching center, holding hands, forming a star shape, with left hands holding the tambourines. The couples perform eight tarantella steps simultaneously, the group rotating in a circle clockwise. Clap the tambourine on the last step. Everyone turns to join left hands in the center. Perform the eight tarantella steps again, now turning in the opposite direction. Clap the tambourine on the last step.
Learn the foot-work first and add the arm motions and tambourine once the steps are mastered. Begin by dancing at a slower tempo and gradually increase the speed of the dance as you become more comfortable with the steps.
Michelle Barry graduated from Salve Regina University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Since then, she has worked as a reporter for the Wilbraham-Hampden Times, an editor for Month9Books and Evolved Publishing, editor and has spent the past seven years in marketing and graphic design. She also has an extensive background in dance.