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The “Insegna” dance

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What Tradizioni & folklore
When September
Where Forcella - Teramo
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Every year on the 23rd of September at midday, after the religious rites dedicated to the Virgin Maria Santissima della Misericordia, patron of the town, a dance is performed on the town square.

  • The dance

L'insegna is a white and yellow ensign which is carried to the town square by the standard-bearer or the “president” followed by the armigers and preceded by the musicians. Once on the piazza della Caldaia, the small procession stops and all those present form a circle.

The musicians beat time and the “President” holding the ensign kneels at the centre of the square. After having kissed the corner of the unfolded “Insegna” he starts dancing until a “Pretender” does not step forward to lead the dancing.

This ability test consists in whirling the ensign without letting it ever touch the ground. In case that happens the dancer is excluded from the dance by the armigers. All dancers participate to the dance spontaneously until the standard-bearer does not request the “insegna”, after having kissed it, he throws it over his shoulders and heads back towards his dwelling.

It is strictly a man's dance and has a religious connotation (a form of penitence or vow in honour of the saints)  but it is also a dance performed with a weapon which involves dexterity and physical strength and which by being performed by the entire community on a sacred day allows to renew the devotional bounds towards the patron divinity.
Being an ability test this dance is also a public exhibition of virility, which represents an occasion for the younger to gain and for the older to confirm social importance within the society; because the group involved in the ritual game includes only men, it can be related to men initiation rites and to those for celebrated for the renewal of fertility.

  • The story

The historical origins of the dance are uncertain: according to oral tradition it was first organized  after a young nobleman sick with the plague was cured through the intercession of the Madonna who had appeared to him in dream. The entire population would have gathered on the town square to celebrate the event and there the young man would have performed for the first time the “Insegna dance”.

If that were to be true it would explain that up to twenty years ago the custom had it that at the end of the dance one should kneel facing the castle as to recall the miraculous original event and thus celebrate the end of the plague.

This tradition could be linked to the fact that the entire diocese of Teramo would have been, with the intercession of Sant'Anna, miraculously spared by the terrible plague which hit all of Abruzzo in 1657. According to another interpretation the origins of the dance would root in the “Festa dei Trionfi” ( the triumph feast) which was introduced in Teramo on the Sant'Anna feast day of year 1559: these festivities involved the entire population in the preparation of floats and the performance of devotional “armed” dances.

Teramo Turismo

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