This festival is not only one of the many dedicated to “pizzica”, the salentine traditional music and dance: it is the only festival where you can see the original “pizzica-scherma”, a really particular type of pizzica. The dances are in honor of San Rocco, which is venerated on August 16 in a sanctuary located in Torrepaduli. Torrepaduli is a 800-inhabitant small village (under the municipality of Ruffano) about 50 km south of Lecce . People from the whole Salento traditionally go to Torrepaduli on the night before the Christian celebrations and play music and dance all night. Now the festival has grown big and also many tourists reach the village, crowding its narrow streets.
But what is “pizzica-scherma” and why is it so particular? Generally speaking, Pizzica is a dance created for women and, also when it is danced in couples, women preserves their main role. Pizzica-scherma is an exception to this habit and is a completely different style. It is performed only by men who fight each others, using their fingers as swords (another name given to this dance is “danze delle spade”, the dance of swords). The dancers (or fighters!) move at the repetitive rhythm of tambourines and sometimes other instruments such as castanets, accordions and violins. Musicians form a circle that faces inward toward each other and the music is played. Inside the circle 2 dancers begin to “fight”. Their movements are similar to fencing moves of attack and defense: this is the origin of the name of the dance, “scherma” meaning fencing in Italian. When one of the two dancers get touched, he has to leave the field and the winner will continue to “fight” until he is eliminated. The origins of this old dance/fight get lost in the mists of time and it has been object of research of anthropologists and psychologists.
On-stage concerts take place during the festival but it has also preserved its natural and spontaneous nature: if you have a tambourine or other instruments, you can join one of the groups of musicians and accompany the dancers.