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27810.  Sat Oct 22, 2005 7:54 am Reply with quote

Big subject: not the sort of thing we've dealt with much. Nice opportunity for some music perhaps...

27816.  Sat Oct 22, 2005 8:15 am Reply with quote

Slightly tangential, but hey... What do elephants have in common with flamingoes? They are both 'ballerinas', walking on the very tips of their toes.

Incidentally, the bend in the middle of the flamingo's leg is not its knee - it's its ankle. The knee joint is hidden just inside its feathery undercarriage.

Mr Grue
30526.  Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:41 am Reply with quote

The (bit frightening) Tarantella dance is believed to stave off death from a Tarantula bite. Although this may indeed be the dance's origins, the bite is rarely fatal anyway, just extremely painful.

I once saw a fantastic production of Ibsen's A Doll's House where all characters other than the married couple were played by toys. I learnt later that the production couldn't find anything on how to do the Tarantella and so had to pretty much make it up. I understand they didn't do too badly.

30528.  Fri Nov 11, 2005 4:22 am Reply with quote

I had actually heard (although for the life of me, I cannot remember where) that the Tarantella was based in part on the convulsions caused by a spider bite....

Maybe I should be scoring minus points for perpetuating an urban myth?


30794.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:24 am Reply with quote

My understanding is that you are correct Tas, although it's a while since I read about the subject.

Here's a question, why do belly dancers wear jewels in their belly-buttons?
<answer below>

The Hays Code was a was a censorship guideline brought into the entertainment industry in the 1930s it restricted the showing the bare navel in American movies, so to get around this Hollywood inserted a jewel there.
Incidentally belly-dancing, comes from islamic countries and as such is not supposed to be performed by a woman in front of men and according to this site (amongst others) actually comes from a childbirth ritual:
Women gathered around the mother and moved their muscles, encouraging her to do imitate them. The mother relaxed into, and moved with, her contractions, rather than perching in fear of anticipated birth pangs.

Last edited by eggshaped on Mon Jun 19, 2006 4:02 am; edited 1 time in total

30802.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:04 am Reply with quote

As an explanation, that doesn't cover the jewel issue (though it's a good one for the muscle movements). By the time you're nine months pregnant you haven't got enough of a belly button left for a jewel to perch in, and if it was pierced the jewel would probably be standing out at right angles.

30805.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:14 am Reply with quote

Jenny - it's a two-parter; you need to highlight the blank section in the middle to see the answer about the jewel.

30810.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:27 am Reply with quote

Oh duh! Didn't realise that! Thanks Flash :-)

30812.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:36 am Reply with quote

I remember in English at high school my teacher telling us that the Tarentella was believed to prevent death from a spider bite, but in actual fact tended to increase the risk of death by spreading the poison around the body faster because the heart was beating faster. Is this right? Or is it a myth?

And yes, we were studying Ibsen's A Doll's House at the time. =D

30837.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 12:23 pm Reply with quote

The idea behind the Tarantella was 'kill or cure'. By dancing manically you either sweated the poison out, or straight into your heart (so, cure or kill, actually). The things I learned in piano lessons.

On the subject of another T dance, anyone know the origins of the "tea dance" itself? Have always thought it was a fantastically weird combination of activities.

30840.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 12:29 pm Reply with quote

I'm afraid the tarantella/spider-bite connection is a myth. The tarantella is a folk-dance from Taranto in Italy; the tarantula also derives its name from the town, and that's as far as it goes.

There was a form of mass hysteria in Southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th centuries called "tarantism"; it was to cure this condition (not to neutralize the poison of a spider) that Athanasius Kircher wrote eight songs in 1641.

30868.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:09 pm Reply with quote

Never understood how the tarantula (native to the Americas) was written about in the 19thC in Italy. Thanks Gaazy. Now, how does one go about getting a refund for those piano lessons...

30870.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:16 pm Reply with quote

The tarantula, native to the americas, got its name from the original tarantula spider which is native to southern Europe. This spider in turn got its name from the town of Taranto.

I was under the impression that the dance and the spider were related and this was not an etymologycal myth, though I am happy to be corrected.

More detailed searching required on my part methinks.

30872.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:31 pm Reply with quote

There was a form of mass hysteria in Southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th centuries called "tarantism";

Gaazy, was this hysteria not as a result of people believing that they were poisoned by a spider bite?

Wiki suggests that it could have been a trick to get round religious dance bans, but all evidence I've found (including the beeb, the encyclopaedia britannica and plenty of undergraduate studies) sticks with the arachnid story.

I suppose ergotism could be an explanation?

30897.  Sat Nov 12, 2005 4:56 pm Reply with quote

eggshaped wrote:
Gaazy, was this hysteria not as a result of people believing that they were poisoned by a spider bite?

Well, that's as maybe, but the fact remains that the tarantella as a dance existed before the hysteria and the songs designed to cure it, and that its name, tarantella, derived quite innocently and obviously from the placename.


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