Review by Wangxiu Cheng

While undertaking my student placement at Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland in autumn 2022 I had the opportunity to professionally engage with a range of world dance styles – from Highland Dancing and ceilidh to Chinese Tujia dance and even Egyptian Tanura.

On 19 November 2022, I had the rare chance to learn the basics of Southern Italian Pizzica and Tammurriata against the backdrop of the magnificent Main Hall of Summerhall as part of the 10th anniversary of Mediterraneo – Edinburgh’s world music concert series.

At the Mediterraneo dance workshop, I interacted with more than 20 enthusiastic participants, including fellow professional dancers, locals and tourists who all loved dance and art. To start with, we were treated to a solo dance performance by our workshop leader from Edinburgh’s Italian Folk Connection.

We then moved in a circle to warm up and learn the initial dance steps while being introduced to the social and music history of Pizzica and Tammurriata. Legend has it that a person bitten by a poisonous spider ‘talantula’ must dance vigorously to detoxify.

Due to its popularity, Tammurriata is now a social dance and remains popular in the community. It is usually danced in a circle, starting with a professional dancing couple, with other dancers gradually  flocking in. Its joyful social dance nature is mainly reflected in the circle dance, partner exchange, duet and trio improvisations. The music is extremely fast, and the rhythm of six or three beats lays the ground for a very warm experience.

In Summerhall, we were glowing in this warmth while learning the first four basic steps. The virtuoso drummers from The Badwills kept us under their spell and addictive rhythm. In the second part of the workship we discovered Votata – the art of spinning and turning while trying to maintain a sense of body and eye contact in the interaction. Finally, we all danced and sang to the lyrics accompanied by the drums.

The Mediterraneo dance workshop did manage to deliver an authentic southern Italian charm through the ages. Both Pizzica and Tammurriata turned to be free dances capable of creating a cheerful and enthusiastic atmosphere – like a vivid genre painting.

Images by Wangxiu Cheng. Mentorship and editorial support by Iliyana Nedkova

Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland’s second annual international trad dance festival is planned for 28-30 April 2023 across Edinburgh. Find out more about the inaugural Pomegranates Festival 2022 here.