The Dance of Swords at Torrepaduli
In Torrepaduli, part of the small town of Ruffano, the 16 August is held a very suggestive party
In which, to the rhythm of the tambourines and the accordion, two contenders challenge each other in a duel surrounded by an immense crowd.
On the day dedicated to San Rocco the festivities begin at 23 when after the procession the statue of the saint returns to the Sanctuary and goes on until the 5 when the sound of the bells announces the first mass of the day.
From Perle di Puglia:
It is an ancient dance, the pizzica fencing is one of the most evocative festivals of the whole Salento, the night of San Rocco in Torrepaduli, a small fraction of the Municipality of Ruffano. The party, in the night between the 15 and the 16 August, is an opportunity to get to know the pizzica danced at the rhythm of the tambourine and the exciting "dance of the swords" up close. In the square in front of the Church dedicated to San Rocco, the sacred and the profane meet between faith and frenetic rhythm. Torrepaduli has always been a destination for pilgrims who, to pay tribute to San Rocco, also arrive on foot from distant countries and spend the night on the steps of the Church in order not to miss the first mass of dawn. It is from this expectation that the "patrols" were born, that is spontaneous music and dance. When, in fact, at the end of August 15, the doors of the Sanctuary close, the first shots of tambourine are heard, it is the beginning of the longest night of the Salento summer that will end with the first light of dawn.
It is a sort of large gathering: the square in front of the Church is full of people to capacity, circular spaces for musicians and dancers open up in the crowd and the pinch or the sword dance known also as "dance fencing", which the Salento people inherited from the Gypsy ethnic group. The dancers face off in this proud and elegant dance, miming the blades of the knives with their fingers, very concentrated, eyes in the eyes, avoiding the blows of the adversary, following the rhythm of the tambourines that gradually becomes more and more urgent, almost to the physical exhaustion. As well as the pizzica, also the fencing dance has precise rules that must be respected so that the tradition is not distorted; one must wait for the right moment to enter the circle, the patrol is not a dance floor but a circle of primordial energy, and always give priority to the elderly who best of all retain the originality of their movements.
The ritual in honor of San Rocco resumes the morning after 4, the same time when the dances are interrupted out of respect for the Saint. If you want to take part in this particular party, you have to take into account the very many people that pour into Torrepaduli every year, so it is advisable to go there in the early hours of the afternoon so as not to remain unnecessarily stuck in traffic, not just cars, but also people. that runs along the main street of the village to reach the square in front of the Sanctuary.