The Sorrento Tarantella

People come to Sorrento for holidays, but not just that.

The most important town of the beautiful peninsula with the same name represents the beginning of a journey that includes art, history, sea, sunlight, but also tastings, traditions, habits, customs and music.

Sorrento, and the whole territory of its hinterland, is part of the great Neapolitan culture but it also knows how to stand out in some characteristics that make it special.

For example, it has kept nearly intact many customs that come from a very distant past.

The tarantella is one of them.

To an untrained eye it may seem like any other southern tarantella, but il the dance done here in Sorrento preserves ancient secrets that have been lost in the rest of the region.

If you want to get to know it, and perhaps even give it a try, you must come to Sorrento.


History of the Tarantella

The Tarantella, the typical wild dance from southern Italy, comes from a common denominator from Puglia in the 17th century.

However, this dance has much deeper roots, perhaps a mixture of Greek dances with oriental rhythms.

It would be wrong to assume that the tarantella is the same everywhere, in the South.

With time, with the change of habits and above all while spreading in the various territories, the tarantella has diversified.

It seems normal, then, that the tarantella from Puglia is different from then one coming from Sicily, from Calabria and from Naples.

But there are differences even within the same cultural territory.

As it is, precisely, in Campania. The so called Neapolitan Tarantella is a dance highly based on drums, on rhythm. It’s meant to be a dance for two, not a group dance like in other regions.

The Neapolitan Tarantella has five different sub genres on its own, that separate over the territory.

What about Sorrento?


Why is the Sorrento Tarantella special

In Sorrento, the tarantella arrived a bit later compared to the rest of the region.

We are already in full 18th century when the dance became popular in the area.

Here it took more story-telling characteristics.

The Sorrento tarantella is a love story.

Each choreography describes the steps of courting.

Even the rhythm is different, as it gets interrupted in its traditional tempo mid-dance.

The dancers aren’t limited to dancing, instead, they also participate to the orchestra and choir, helping the musicians with hand-played instruments while dancing.

During a Sorrento tarantella performance, the dancers can – one at a time – even change costumes.

Then there’s the particular detail of the Scarrafone.

This is a dancer chosen among the others tasked with engaging the audience.

He can kneel in front of a lady and invite her to dance, he can challenge a man pretending to slap him, bringing the show among the
people and viceversa.

The modern tarantella, in Sorrento, is based on the teachings from master Tonino Ambrosino, who has been organising performances and creating choreographies for over 40 years for the folk bands of the peninsula.

Today, the tarantella is the core of local tourism together with other local beauties and in that aspect, it is evolving in the stories and in the ways they are being told and shown to the audience.

You can assist to a Sorrento Musical show at Teatro Armida. Dancers, singers and musicians all together will be performing the famous old songs from the Neapolitan tradition.