4. Tarantella for U.S., Italian American, and Cosmopolitan Markets: Alessandra Belloni’s Performance from New York City to Honolulu
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chap ter 4 Tarantella for U.S., Italian American, and Cosmopolitan Markets Alessandra Belloni’s Performance from New York City to Honolulu WhentheUniversityofHawai‘i’sFrenchandItalianDivisionfirsthostedAlessandra Belloni’s tarantella music and dance workshop on April 26, 2006, I did not know what a “tarantella workshop” might look like. While the image of tarantella that most people in the United States are familiar with is the refined sixteenth-centuryNeapolitantarantella,myparticipationinthelocalfestivals had taught me to appreciate tarantella as a complex family of folk dances, to be learned within the space and time of the festival rather than in a workshop. WhichversionwouldBelloni’sworkshopfeatureandhow?Ialsowonderedhow Hawai‘i’saudiencesmightrespondtoatarantellaevent,consideringnotonlyits general lack of familiarity with Italian culture but also the scarce knowledge of ItalianfolkloreamongstudentsandaficionadosofItaliancultureintheUnited States (Del Giudice 2009b). Asamatteroffact,thetarantellaperformancepresentedbyBelloni,andespeciallyherdancechoreographies ,offeredaratherdifferentversionoftarantella than the ones I had watched at the festivals at home; neither was this a typical example of ethnic music and dancing featuring typical tarantella costumes— the type that you would expect to see at displays of Italian American culture (Rauche 1990). Judging from the audience’s enthusiasm, her representation of tarantella was also a very successful one, given its ability to resonate with the University of Hawai‘i’s diverse and international audience. As Belloni herself asserts in her publications and interviews, her performance offers a unique 140  •  chap ter 4 versionoftarantellathatnotonlyreinterpretsthesemusicanddancetraditions from a woman’s perspective (Belloni 2007),1 but also projects them onto world musicandNewAgescenariosbyfocusingonthecross-cultural,universal,and spiritualaspectsofthesetraditions.Forthegoalofthisstudy,itisimportantto ask what allows the tarantella folk genre to relocate from the southern Italian festivalstobothworldmusicandNewAgescenesaswellaswhatBelloni’srole is in this process of relocation. Whilethischapter’smainfocusisBelloni’sownuseofthetarantellarhythms in her performance, through Belloni’s example I hope to find answers to the questions above as entry points into the dynamics of recontextualization of tarantella in the United States from the 1970s until today. Employing Belloni’s tarantella performance as a starting point, then, I explore what new aesthetics and sociocultural values have become associated with tarantella, a folk tradition representative of the local culture of southern Italy, as it was marketed as “ethnic” music first and more recently as a “world” music product to consume on a global scale. While these dynamics are already at play within the Italian festivalcontext(seechapter2),Belloni’sownadaptationoftarantellabutconfirmsthepresenceofthesedynamicsintheUnitedStatesandhighlightsaNew Age perspective that is only starting to emerge in Italy, within Milan’s cosmopolitan context, thus helping create a unique cultural product. My analysis of Belloni’s work, as well as of what I call the “identity narrative” emerging from her work, suggests that Belloni’s own adaptation of tarantella for a U.S. audienceisarathercomplexculturalproduct .Ontheonehand,itconfirmsacollective image of Italy as an exotic place in the eyes of American and international audiences (Schneider 1998; Gribaudi 1997); on the other hand, it replaces the religious and patriarchal legacies of tarantella with a gendered and New Age type of performance, thus allowing both Italian and Italian American women to reconnect to ancient women’s healing practices in the Mediterranean and to reclaim gendered aspects of their ethnic heritage.2 A “Mediterranean Volcano” Singer, actress, dancer, and percussionist Alessandra Belloni first moved to New York City in 1971, at the age of seventeen, to find a venue where she could express herself in music (Del Giudice 2009a).3 In her book Rhythm Is the Cure: Southern Italian Tambourine, Belloni recounts how she “had been living in New Yorkforseveralyears,studyingtheatreandmusic,andononeof[her]tripsback to Italy [she] met a group of women who invited [her] to be part of a women’s concert.There[she]learnedsomeamazingwomen’sworkchantsfromNaples, Tarantella for U.S., Italian American, and Cosmopolitan Markets   • 141 Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily. The music was haunting and powerful, and [she] wanted to learn more as [she] found that it touched [her] heart deeply” (2007, 9). After debuting on New York City’s theatrical scene, in 1976 Belloni met Italian American guitarist-composer John La Barbera in Greenwich Village in NewYork,andtheydiscoveredasharedpassionforsouthernItalianfolkmusic (ibid.); La Barbera had just returned from Italy and was as familiar as Belloni with the 1960s and 1970s Italian folk music revival (La Barbera 2009; Del Giudice 2009a). During his stay in Italy in 1973 on a music scholarship, La Barbera had come to associate with the Italian student movement, which strongly encouraged the recovery of Italian traditional music as a way to move beyond the increasing industrialization and Americanization of Italian pop music. A group of southern Italian students living in Florence had then introduced La BarberatosouthernItalianfolkmusicin1975.CalledPupieFresedde,thegroup wasinspiredbythesociallyprogressiveandAmerican-based1960sBreadand Puppet Theatre, but its originality consisted in its loans from Italian Renaissance puppet...