Geoffrey and Claire snap our minds and bodies back into a reconstructed memory of the past 2000+ years of the Tarantella- a dance which has survived this by morphing its identity toward and away from different cultural pressures: beginning as an orgiastic Dionysian ritual, it became pathologized in order to avoid suppression in Christianised Europe (the participants didn’t want to dance… they “had to” because it was both the symptom and cure* to a spider’s bite**: a poison that would reactivate each year in the Summer heat). This is what I wanted to keep in mind in reapproachin a relationship with The Australian Ballet, who commissioned this work.

Once the spectacle became a tourist attraction, economic stimulus contributed to its codification*** into the folk dances/tunes that are recognisable today. The form became so popular by the 17th century that Louis XIV’s court incorporated it into their classical ballet syllabus, where it still resides. The shifts between Dionysian/Apollonian, subversive/sanctioned, buying/selling as embodied by this history are the makeup of this project.


Creation: Geoffrey Watson
Performance: Claire Leske and Geoffrey Watson
Costumes/sets: Geoffrey Watson
Filming: Sam McGilp
Music: Arranged and performed by Peter Wilson after Athanasius Kircher, mixed by Geoffrey Watson and with additional fly sounds by Felix Blume

Premier screening: The Australian Ballet’s Youtube channel, 2021

* Both a placebo and nocebo, the afflicted could dance themselves to death through their erratic, spasmodic, often sexually explicit movements if the right musical rhythms couldn’t be found to move them into pleasure and expel the poison.

** The bite was sometimes real and sometimes metaphysical, and sometimes from a scorpion.

*** Local musicians were paid for their curative services, and therefore incentivised to encourage Tarantic behaviour beyond the point where it could be sustained as a spontaneous, cathartic eruption… so ‘steps’ were introduced

****This is what I wanted to keep in mind when reapproaching a relationship with The Australian Ballet, who commissioned this work

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