About Balanchine’s Tarantella

About Balanchine’s Tarantella

A Pas de Deux Full of Joie de Vivre

The tarantella is the most popular of all the folk dances from Southern Italy. Its name derives from the city of Taranto, where in the fourteenth century, it is said, citizens bitten by the tarantula spider danced as hard and as fast as they could until they had sweated out the spider’s poison. The folk dance is executed mainly by couples (it is considered unlucky to dance it alone) in accelerating 6/8 time.

Sasha De Sola and Esteban Hernandez in Balanchine’s Tarantella // Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson

In Balanchine’s Tarantella, the dancers are Neapolitan country folk, dressed for a festival. Though they are definitely a couple, and a flirtatious one at that, this is not a conventional pas de deux. There is no supported partnering, for example. Both dancers need to possess a knack for the tambourine and enough joie de vivre to be able to smile at all the bravura complications Balanchine’s choreography asks of them.

by William Huck

Header Image: Sasha De Sola in Balanchine’s Tarantella //Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson