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The Dance of Swords at Torrepaduli

On the night of San Rocco with the Dance of Swords the legend merges with history and the sacred with the profane

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 parties in all of Salento, the night of San Rocco in Torrepaduli, a small fraction of the Municipality of Ruffano. The party, on the night between 15 and 16 August, is an opportunity to get to know the pizzica danced to the rhythm of the tambourine and the exciting "sword dance" 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 honor San Rocco, come on foot even from distant countries and in order not to miss the first mass at dawn, they spend the night on the steps of the Church. It is from this expectation that the "patrols" were born, that is spontaneous music and dance. When, in fact, at sunset on August 15th, the doors of the Sanctuary close, the first tambourine beats 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 crowded with people to the point of unbelievable, circular spaces of musicians and dancers open up in the crowd and inside them the pizzica or the sword dance also known as a “fencing dance”, which the Salento people inherited from the Gypsy ethnic group. The dancers face each other in this proud and elegant dance by mimicking knife blades with their fingers, very concentrated, eye to eye, dodging the opponent's blows, following the rhythm of the tambourines which gradually becomes more and more pressing, almost to physical exhaustion. Just like pizzica, fencing dance also has precise rules that must be respected so that the tradition is not distorted; you have to 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 preserve the originality of the 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.