for the love of dancing.


A friend posted something to facebook this morning that I loved—a definition of the word Tarantism. I had never heard of tarantism before and I do so love new words, but I found this one to be magical for so much more than just its newness.

Tarantism is defined as a kind of mania—especially prevalent between the 13th and 15th centuries in Italy, apparently—where one is taken over completely by the desire to dance. Who knows what exactly was going on in Italy around that time to cause such widespread manic desire to move, but so tarantism—the disorder, the affliction, supposedly—was born.

I have, without a doubt, a modern but highly welcomed version of tarantism. I am compelled both by my physical body and my spiritual/psychological barometer to move my body in convulsive and repetitive ways on the daily, liberating the stuck energies of my experience which get lodged and bounce around in my fingers, toes and thighs until I shake them out. Give me country, disco, house music, rap or polka, and I’ll tarrantisize my way through any of them without a care, just happy to jump, roll and twist my way across any beat that presents itself.

I’ve always loved to dance, according to my mother, and so would imagine that whatever infected me with tarantism did so at an early age. But let’s be honest, I know that I was born with it, and that this impulsive need for rhythm and expression is as much a part of my soul as is my love for animals, my creative force, or my deep appreciation for beautiful coffee.

My tarantism has been the source of both healing and dysfunction throughout my growth however. I say this because for one inflicted with this condition the dancing must happen, and so if it doesn’t (as what occurred during various highly insecure periods of my life) I get quite sick and out of whack. Solution? Well, dancing. Simple enough.

I feel, as you can imagine, that my affliction is not an affliction at all, but a way of relating to both my body and the rhythmic offerings of the world that provides not only greater understanding and connection to physicality, but also a fantastic and always available stream of creative expression. When I dance I get absolutely lost in the sensations and boundless quality of it, endlessly exploring the reaches of my form so as to investigate what things, experiences and beliefs I have stored in my digits and joints, asking myself through movement and awareness whether those things are what I truly would like to be carrying around, and if not, easing them out of my being with a shoulder roll or a hippyhippyshake. It’s marvelous medicine.


I spend enough time around kids to know that we are all born dancing; we all understand how to relate to our bodies and life in this way (even those of us challenged by physical difficulties), moving the conscious and judging mind out of the way so that there may be a fluid and dynamic and honest connection between soul and body, the practice serving the role of both the diagnostician and the healer. We may not all have the same taratismic relationship with our bodily movements, I’m sure, but I do know that underneath it all we must all relate to our bodies in this way, somehow. Otherwise what would be the point of living in this form? 


Are you tarantismic? How do you relate to your body? What practice allows you to connect the spirit with form and find healing and balance amidst the chaos of the human life?