March 30, 2008

Don't Laugh--Pinky Often suffers from This Malady

Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Taranto, Italy was hit by a dance craze unlike any other. The town was afflicted by a malady that would come to be known as "tarantism" and was characterized by a hysterical impulse to dance. Some people claimed tarantism was caused by the bite of the European wolf spider, which is also known as the tarantula (and is also named after Taranto); such folks declared that dancing off the venom was the only cure. Musicians supposedly traveled to the region to help cure the epidemic, and some believe that the Italian folk dance called the "tarantella" resulted from the craze (though it is also possible that the name of that dance derived independently from "Taranto" and has no connection with "tarantism").