Italy is a country as culturally rich as it is naturally diverse, with variety of culinary, artistic and musical traditions native to many parts of its rugged terrain. In terms of traditional dancing, many rural areas have established forms of folk dance, which often combine influences from past immigration or invasion into something entirely new. For those looking to explore the world of traditional Italian dance, several popular forms have become renowned.
Legend has it the Tarantella dance developed as way to cure yourself from the bite of a poisonous tarantula spider -- by dancing so hard you actually sweat out the venom. The dance, for couples or groups, involves spinning around the partner, alternately coming into a tight embrace and then separating again. The Tarantella is a courtship dance in Italy and performed by Italian immigrants in countries all over the world to this day. The fast and furious music of the Tarantella often builds in tempo as the dance goes on.
Named after Fruili, an area just north of Venice, La Furlana is an Italian folk dance practiced in many rural areas of Italy. The dance is different in each area, usually involves a couple and often imitates different aspects of a marriage or relationship. La Furlana dancers use a handkerchief as a means of flair and communication, with the male and female alternately waving it in the air. The music of La Furlana is very similar to the waltz, with participants even dancing on quarter notes.
Hailing from the mountainous Tuscan region of Northern Italy, the trescone is a folk dance that has its roots in the ancient inhabitants of the area, the Etruscans. The name refers to the practice of threshing corn with your feet, an action ritualized and turned into an act of courtship in the dance itself. Women dance around the men, swirling their skirts from side to side while the males alternate from bended knee to hopping steps that trail after the women. The light and happy music of the trescone invokes the festivities of harvest time.
A large number of traditional dances remain in Italy, including carnival dances, line dances, wedding dances and even competitive dances. Many of these dances have no names but are traditional in various areas. They serve a vital function in their native communities, whether it is courtship or the celebration of a good crop yield. Some dances hearken back to the earliest tribal days of Italy's history, like the animal dances of rural Tuscany. Other dances reflect the influence of Italy's mixed heritage, with conspicuous Greek, German and North African elements.
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