Monthly Archives: August 2011

Everybody dance now …


On doing research about Norman and medieval Sicily, I stumbled across this gem on YouTube:

It’s by a band called Al Qantarah that specializes in Sicilian music. Having learned how to dance some debke and some bransles, my feet started twitching when I heard the rhythm.

So then, I did a little research into medieval Italian carole dances and the various versions of “In hoc anni circulo.” You can read about what I found out here, in another paper I did for the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The paper was written for the Artisan’s Challenge last November in Hartshorn-dale, where I first demonstrated the dance. At one point, we got a bunch of people to line dance around the chapel. The people who watched us, and even the ones dancing, found themselves experiencing a “medieval moment” when it became not a bunch of modern-day folks in funny clothes but something more real.

I taught the dance again at the last Noisemakers Schola in February. There was a little panic on some faces when they realized I was going to make them dance to the song they had just learned. Hee.  But everyone learned it so quickly we were able to run through it a few times and still join the jam session in an adjoining classroom.

The next thing I want to do is to get some people together to film this choreography. I’ve tried to write it out to make it understandable to non-dancers, but couldn’t do it – the dance includes a short grapevine sequence and a debke stomp, and that’s best taught visually.

I’m also fascinated by this piece Al Qantarah did, called “Montedoro”:

The mix of the Arabic oud and voice taqsim in the beginning along with the folksong (in a 9/8 rhythm, which makes it sound Turkish), is very interesting. Montedoro itself is a town in Sicily known for its vocal sacred music tradition. But I haven’t been able to find out anymore about the original folk song.

UPDATE: According to the liner notes of Al Qantarah’s CD, “Montedoro” came from “Corpus di musiche popolari siciliane,” a two-volume work that was published in the 1920s by ethnomusicologist Alberto Favara. I know there was another edition published at least in the 1950s.

Anyway, you can get a short biography of Alberto Favara here. Ironically, there is a band named after him in the town where he was born, Salemi, but they don’t seem to play any of his actual compositions.


Court of Palermo, 1130


I established this blog for a particular purpose, initially to develop a piece I am working on for the salon of the Tapestry Dance Retreat at the end of September, but also to continue working out aspects of my persona for the Society for Creative Anachronism, a woman of Norman/Lombard descent in the court of King Roger II of Sicily.

I have been doing research about the Muslim and Norman eras of Sicily and Southern Italy since 2006, when I got to visit Sicily. My own heritage is Sicilian in part; my grandmother was born in Corleone. My grandfather was from Calabria, a little town called Sellia Marina.

My SCA first paper exploring Sicily’s medieval past was about the Muslims on the island. If you want to read it, you can find it here.

A few visuals for inspiration…

Mosaics in the Zisa Palace (built by William I, Roger’s son, and completed by William II, Roger’s grandson)

Mosaics in the Sala di Ruggiero, in the Palazzo Normanni in Palermo:

I’ll be taking a look at the Arab-influenced culture of the Norman Sicilian court in my next post.