Realms of Gold is partially set near the archaeological site of the legendary, gold -loving city of Sybaris located In Magna Graecia, the Greater Greece of southern Italy.
Alessandra Belloni and her group, Giullari di Piazza are artists in residence of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City. I first saw her Dance of the Spider on a warm summer night in the gardens of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. She reminded me of a maenad on a Grecian urn. It was unforgettable evening. Belloni and her ensemble have created a series of full-length presentations based on the folk myths and rituals of southern Italy. She is an expert tambourine player, percussionist, vocalist, dancer and actress and has gained world-side acclaim.
I am including this video (ten minutes long, but just watching a part will give you an idea of what the real tarantella is about.
The Tarantella and the Myth of Arachne
The tarantella, the ritual dance of the spider, is an important part of the narrative in my novel. The dance derives from the myth of Arachne, who angered the goddess Athena, by winning a weaving contest. In her rage, Athena changed Arachne into a spider and, forever after, Arachne was doomed to weave her web.
There are other tarantellas-- the Neapolitan courtship dances as well as the simple tarantellas still danced at Italian weddings. However, the original "magico-religious" tarantella is a solo dance performed to rid the body of the venom of the spider through perspiration, delirium, rapid, sometimes contortive movements. The dance was believed to be a cure for the behavior of neurotic women.
The oldest documents mentioning the relationship between musical exorcism and the tarantula are dated around 1100 BC The tarantella is believed to be a remnant of the cult of Dionysus driven underground. These Dionysian-Bacchanalian rites were later suppressed by the Roman Senate. The name of the dance, tarantella, is thought to be derived from the Spartan city of Taranto, in Apulia, Italy.
Alessandra Belloni and her New York-based band, I Guillari di Piazza (Players of the Square), are artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City