by Jane Rosenberg
With her compelling stage presence, throaty mezzo, and raging tambourine, Allessandra Belloni is a force of nature. Through Southern Italian folk music, chant, and dance, Belloni and her company explored the sound and movement world of tarantella trance dancing at Disney Hall’s Redcat.
Tarantella traces its roots back to Greco-Roman times. The purging of a woman’s thwarted desires through ecstatic trance dancing, accompanied by vibrant percussion, was precipitated by the bite of the tarantula or “spider love bite.”
In Belloni’s contemporary manifestation, dancers spin, shake convulsively, and writhe on the floor. If this sounds like a personal exorcism of sorts, it is; and this is where the problem of performance sets in. As a healing rite it may have its benefits, or as a fascinating demonstration of an ancient folk tradition it’s effective. But as a two-act dance drama, strung together by narration, it fails. Dancers mime or perform choreographed routines that seem stilted rather than ecstatic. Only Belloni and one of her lead dancers are up to the task.
Belloni’s virtuosity on the tambourine is without question. Along with traditional instruments played onstage by an ensemble of musicians, her music director, Joe Deninzon adds modern electronic dance beats. I suspect this is the reason Belloni’s expressive voice is over amplified with an unfortunate loss of complexity and subtlety.
To be in Belloni’s presence, without the interference of electronic music, amplification, or the distraction of other performers, to my mind, would be the perfect way to sample the tarantella and connect to the true meaning of the spider dance.
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To read more dance and music reviews by Jane Rosenberg click HERE.
Jane Rosenberg is the author and illustrator of DANCE ME A STORY: Twelve Tales of the Classic Ballets. Jane is also the author and illustrator of SING ME A STORY: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children