Arci Tavola Tonda - CHORÓS


Dances, Voices and Rhythms of Southern Italy

Training and study course between music, theater and pedagogy; dedicated to performers, educators, cultural operators, teachers
At the origins of the Western theatral tradition lies the Greek choir, a 'collective character' that moves, dances and sings in unison in honor of Dionysus, the god of intoxication.

The tragedy chorus was made up of men only, yet it was born on the archetype of the choirs of Nymphs and Muses, from which also the initiatory choirs of adolescents and young women and men of the archaic Greek world derive.
Before men took exclusive possession of the ritual place where the stories of the community were told, women were the original percussionists, dancers, singers, storytellers.
Dance, percussion, voice and relationship are still inextricably linked in the dance world of Southern Italy (the ancient Magna Graecia) and Sicily: it’s the so-called 'Tarantella area', resulting from Nymphs’ circles. In an unbroken line documented at least from the sixth century BC the same women who played the drums were herbalists and healers, obstetricians and women of medicine with a strong spirituality - first pagan and then Christian - which intertwined the effectiveness of herbs with the psychological-emotional one of prayers and songs and the physical-perceptive one of music and dance.
In Southern Italy and Sicily the most ancient archaeological evidences concerning dance and music are linked to the ritual world of Goddesses, their priestesses and offerers. And, until the last century, the frame drum was a purely feminine ritual instrument.
Nymphs and Satyrs, Goddesses, priests and shamans, actors, storytellers of fairy tales and myths: if you want to study performing arts, physical theater, singing, percussion and dance today, you have to look at these roots, and at a world in which what is now separated in different disciplines was born intertwined together.

The tarantella (or 'dance of the little taranta') has its origin in the pre-Christian belief according to which, due to the bite by an insect or reptile or sacred spider (the tarantula or taranta, in fact), one was possessed by that chthonic entity of which the animal represented the manifestation.
Possessed people had to undergo cycles of melotherapy in order to get out of trance and malaise linked to possession. Melotherapy consisted of dancing or simply listening to specific melodies that were intended to bewitch - first - and to fight and drive away - at a later time - the being who possessed the sick person.
In the Tarantella area (from southern Lazio to Sicily), dances often still retain their original ritual functions (in traditional musical contexts).
With Christianity, everything changed. The chthonic divinities (of the underworld) have become infernal beings; dances, instruments and music that were used to exorcise and heal the possession were assimilated to the orgiastic rites in honor of Dionysus and of female divinities now ‘pagan’ and 'demonic'. The hegemonic religious culture tried in various ways - even ferociously - to eradicate ancient beliefs by starting a process of Christianization, and transforming sacred pagan entities into saints and Madonnas, caging as much as possible the ancient rituals within Christian orthodoxy.
Unsacred and unorthodox dance and music were banned, as acts inspired by the devil. The frame drum, once a ritual instrument, was ousted from places of worship and women, holders of ancient knowledge, silenced, tamed, driven out or killed.
However, far from the cities, in the countryside and in the more isolated mountain communities, in the rural and pastoral areas, the old religion was transformed to survive, the tarantella continued to be danced and women drummers continued to play their drums. And where the bond with the ancient cults has been interrupted, music and dances leave the ritual sphere to reach the social one: they become group dances, courtship dances, to show virility, dexterity, sensuality, or dances that celebrate calendar dates or simple moments of aggregation.
This is how the tarantella is transformed from a dance of exorcism and therapy into a social dance, taking root with different ways, forms and styles throughout the South of Italy. From generation to generation ancient knowledge on the construction of instruments, executive techniques, dance steps, together with all the symbolic values ​​that they convey, are transmitted orally, from mouth to mouth, from mother to daughter and from father to son, up to our days.
With structural elements in common (the use of rhythm, a strong ritual aspect, the link with the sacred feminine), each area of ​​our South has developed a specific type of tarantella with different steps, choreutic, melodic and rhythmic figures from place to place.

Course teachers:
Barbara Crescimanno - dance & choir
Michele Piccione - frame drums

The project of the FRAME DRUM ATLAS IN THE EUROMEDITERRANEAN AREA was born to complement and integrate the immense reconstruction work that LAYNE REDMOND has done in the history of this instrument, to collect together the documentation relating to the practices (first of all female practices) linked to the frame drum from the pre- and protohistoric period up to the present, also providing a detailed bibliography that accompanies the individual information sheets.

The webmap is intended as an educational and research tool for those who are working on these issues and are looking for - or want to share - material.

Today the internet provides an infinite amount of data that was not so easily available in the past. However, it's necessary, in this ocean, to find quality criteria in the choice of material, and to find a point of view and a direction in the narration of the facts that allow the reader to orient themselves.

It's certainly an ambitious project: the material loaded on the map up to now is just a tenth of what we have collected in the archives over the years, still more continues to crop up as we proceed with the research, and we hope other material will come from collaborations. However, ambition is accompanied by great humility, since the Atlas is a path that is still under construction (and so it will continue for years): despite having as a precedent the remarkable research work of LAYNE REDMOND, it is an experiment never attempted before; therefore we are moving in small steps: both the map and narrative criteria are changing during the work, and will continue to do so as the overall picture will take shape more clearly and intertwinings, connections and links between practices and historical periods will take shape.

Finally, it is a project that wants to be shared: we welcome (indeed, we strongly desire them) collaborations; but also simple reports; suggestions; material relating to both new finds / documents / images and the relative bibliography.

We have divided the map into CHAPTERS.

In the first chapter: 'PREHISTORY AND PROTOHISTORY', we are collecting the most ancient archaeological evidence that also tells of the coexistence of different types of percussion: cylindrical drums (probably the oldest, deriving from excavated trunks), chalice drums (dating back to the discovery of clay and terracotta), and the first real frame drums, built with curved wood frames.

We also had to expand the geographical area of ​​reference, to understand the oldest documents relating to the instrument: these seem to date back to the period of transition from hunting and gathering societies to agricultural societies, and in some cases have a very strong link with the so-called ' shamanic cultures'.

The other chapters (IX century BC / Late Ancient; Middle Ages (476 AD - 1492); XV-XVI century; The Grand Tour; 19th-20th century: Traditional and modern drummers) are awaiting for english translation ...

To contact us and collaborate write to
In the CHORÓS training course - two years of theoretical / practical study – we’ll work to build a control and a personal physio-motor perception capacity that can gradually allow to master - together - the body movement, the voice, the rhythmic movement and the production of percussive sound, allowing the participants to recreate a traditional dance in ‘rota’; moreover, starting from the basic dynamics, we’ll work for the creation and realization of theatrical performances between voice, sound, movement.
Trainings includes technical lessons: on the rhythmic movement related to the choreutics of Southern Italy; on breathing and vocal techniques; on elements of group and movement pedagogy; on the Greek choir; on techniques on the frame drum.

The practical trainings are flanked by the theoretical MEETINGS of in-depth analysis on the issues addressed during the study path:

✦ The origins and history of the frame drum in the Mediterranean area (by Barbara Crescimanno);
✦ Drum techniques in South Italy (by Michele Piccione);
✦ Dance and devotion, dance and ritual (by Barbara Crescimanno);
✦ Rhythmic figuralism between ergology and expressiveness (by Sergio Bonanzinga, UniPa);
✦ Dance, rhythm and non-ordinary states of conscience (by Barbara Crescimanno);
✦ The area of ​​the tarantella: rhythms and instruments (by Michele Piccione).
Over the two years we will meet scholars, musicians, dancers, vocal trainers, ethnomusicologists and anthropologists who will help us enter - mind and body - into a technically, culturally and emotionally complex, yet deeply fascinating world.
Our vision: history of the frame drum accessible for everyone in the world. This is indeed an ambitious goal, but that will not stop us from working towards it. To get there you must translate ... a lot!
We started in Italian and are working on English (next language?).
Please donate and help us make a truly global impact. Thanks so much!
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