‘Ndrezzata: the dance of the Nymphs

Wealth of history is also abundance of traditions. From cuisine, to festivals, to religious rites Ischia reserves a thousand surprises and one of these is certainly the ‘Ndrezzata (this word means intertwined in Ischitan dialect), a dance whose origins lie in Greek myths.

The 18 dancers, who pass on the complex movements from father to son, can certainly be admired in the village of Buonopane on Easter Monday or on June 24, during the celebrations for San Giovanni Battista, although there are also other occasions all over the island during the good season to the delight of tourists.

The legend is that the nymphs practiced this dance to the rhythm of wooden swords beaten by the satyrs on rudimentary batons, accompanied by melodies played on the cittern by Apollo. He fell in love with one of these nymphs, Coronides, and, moved by the intense feeling, he decided to donate the property of offering beauty and healing to the Nitrodi spring, where the dances were held. From their union Asclepius was born, who soon became orphan of his mother, killed by the god in a tantrum following her betrayal with the satyr Ischi. Asclepius reacted by contaminating the waters of the spring benefited by Apollo with a concoction of herbs that made anyone drinking from it quarrelsome and jealous. And so the inhabitants of Barano and Buonopane, who supplied themselves with water from Nitrodi, were for centuries in bitter contention, until in 1540 a young woman lost a coral belt given to her by her boyfriend, a fisherman from Barano. A young man from Buonopane found it, but refused to return it to the young woman, causing another furious quarrel with the inhabitants of Barano. Luckily reason prevailed this time and a lasting peace was reached, sealed by a symbolic stake of the contended belt on Easter Monday in front of the church of San Giovanni Battista. Guess how the inhabitants of Buonopane celebrated? Dancing the ‘Ndrezzata, inherited from the nymphs of the Nitrodi spring.

The ‘Ndrezzata is divided into three distinct phases: parade, sermon and dance. During the parade half of the dancers enter with a red jacket, which represents men, while the other half wears a green bodice, which symbolizes women. At the head of the group the corporal walks past, to the sound of two clarinets and two “tammoras”. At the end of the parade the groups of dancers form two concentric circles, holding, just like the satyrs of the legend, a “mazzariello” (little baton) in the right hand and a wooden sword in the left one. At the corporal’s orders, the dance starts, following apparently the basic moves of fencing and including two basic figures: the formation of the rose intertwining the “mazzarielle” and the «vattut ‘ e ll’astreche». The sermon takes place during the first figure; the corporal is raised on the rose formed with the “mazzarielle” and in ancient Ischitan dialect recites verses dedicated to love, the fear of the Saracens, the escapes on mount Epomeo, the difficulty of working in the fields and finally the «vattut ‘e ll’astreche ”, That is the waterproofing of the domed house roof with pressed pumice and lime, frequent in our area until the late 1950s. For the second figure this operation is simulated by turning around and hitting rhythmically with the «pentone» (a long wooden rod with an enlarged lower end) a wooden shape representing the domed roof. The waterproofing of a roof with this system represented a moment of aggregation and collaboration of the entire community. The effort was alleviated with the music that gave the rhythm to the beating and with good food.

It is therefore understandable why the ‘Ndrezzata, sublimating myth, history and actions of daily life, has aroused so much interest in anthropologists, even if, in order to enjoy the show, you can just let yourself be carried away by the swirling crescendo of the rhythm that characterizes it.

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