Can you imagine a condition with physiological symptoms such as the blackening of the hands and face, causing vomiting, fainting, and reportedly death, which had no remedy… save for an uncontrolled shaking and flailing that can be said to mimic only dance?
Tarantism is one such condition. What explains such a phenomenon? Is it reducible to anomaly or hysteria? Would it be any more anomalous than the ability of psychological stressors and loneliness to be immunosuppressant or carcinogenic? Does it perhaps instead shed light on the human condition? Maybe that says more of our relationship to hysteria… maybe hysteria isn’t some side-effect of the proper mind, but is rather a proper-effect of the side-mind…
The existence of Tarantism also opens up lines of inquiry within the field of of movement. What is going on with that category of movements that is not just involuntary, but voluntarily involuntary? What is it about movement that we invite, that we can guide but not directly control? Does this overlap with dance? Is Tarantism a dance? Is an exorcism a dance? Or is dance a form of possession – in which you set the parameters with your intentions and background and the patterns stored in your basal ganglia, but you don’t decide what comes next. What’s the name for the factor that decides what comes next? A djinn? A dybbuk?
We’ll be screening a documentary on the topic of Tarantism on November 2nd. Here’s the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/626958657711019/
“… began first moving the feet, legs shortly afterwards. He stood on his knees. Soon after an interval he arose swaying. Finally, in the space of a quarter of an hour he was leaping, nearly three palms from the ground. Sighed, but with such great impetus, that it terrorised bystanders, and before an hour, the black was gone from his hands and face, and he regained his native colour.”