I Giullari di Piazza

See the I Giullari di Piazza website

I Giullari di Piazza (“The Jesters of the Court”) celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020!

Devoted to presenting authentic Southern Italian music/dance/theater dating back to the 13th century, the group also creates new musical and theatrical works based on folk music and dance, ritual theater, and commedia dell' arte. The group's founders spent many years researching the songs, dances and ritual chants of southern Italy. The Italian-born Alessandra Belloni, called a “Mediterranean volcano,” is regarded as an important voice in traditional southern Italian music and dance today. She is the only woman in the US and in Italy who specializes in traditional Southern Italian folk dances and percussion that she learned from tradition bearers in Southern Italy. For over 20 years she participated in drumming festivals in remote areas of Southern Italy, held as rituals of purification in honor of the Black Madonna. She was voted as one of the top percussionists in the worldbeat category by Drum magazine and has toured worldwide, appearing at major festivals and venues. John La Barbera is an award-winning composer and recognized as one of the first transcribers of Southern Italian folk music in America. The composer of original folk operas for I Giullari di Piazza, he has also written works for such documentary films as Sacco and Vanzetti (2007) and the Academy Award-nominated Children of Fate (1992). 

I Giullari de Piazza spent ten years in residence at the Center for Italian Studies at New York University, and has been artist-in-residence for 15 years at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The group's acclaimed productions include Tarantella - Spider Dance; Stabat Mater: Donna de Paradiso, the Easter Opera; The Dance of the Ancient Spider, a trip into the world of exorcisms; The Voyage of the Black Madonna, depicting Virgil's trip around the world in search of the Black Madonna; The Adventures of Don Giovanni and His Servant Pulcinella, performed in commedia dell'arte style; and La Cantata dei Pastori, the humorous Christmas show that was performed as it has been for hundreds of years in street presentations in Naples.  

The company has toured Italy and the US, appearing at such venues as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, Madison Square Garden, the Smithsonian Institute, the Metropolitan Museum, Giants Stadium, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was featured in Spider Sex, a National Geographic documentary on spiders in which the group performed an authentic tarantella as a healing trance ritual.  The company can be heard on many recordings, including Tarantelle e Canti d'Amore (Naxos World) and Tarantata: The Dance of the Ancient Spider (Sounds True), which was named one of the best world music CDs of the year (2002) in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. 

Learn more About I Giullari di Piazza

Among the lush Commedia dell'Arte  productions offered by  I Giullari di Piazza are:



 now available for touring

 presents a program of ecstatic dances, musical exorcisms, and the tarantella trance dance. The program includes excerpts from the company's production “Tarantella - Spider Dance” which feature the wild erotic dance ritual (pizzica tarantata) from Southern Italy used to cure the mythical bite of the tarantula (“the bite of love”). This ancient healing trance dance and exorcism was used to cure a mental disorder called tarantismo, which afflicted mainly women, who felt stuck in the spider web of their society. The program also includes the tarantella delle streghe (witches' dance) from the Renaissance; the medieval danza della morte, the spinning dance of death performed on stilts; powerful ritual drumming and healing chants in honor of the Black Madonna; lullabies; love ballads; and original songs by Alessandra Belloni and John La Barbera, the group's co-founders and directors.

Alessandra Belloni (vocals, percussion, ritual dance) and John La Barbera (chitarra battente - Renaissance folk guitar, mandolin) are joined by Steve Gorn (clarinet, saxophone, bansuri flute), Joe Deninzon (violin, vocal), Wilson Montuori (guitars), Vinnie Scialla and Gordon Gottlieb (percussion), stilt dancer Mark Mindek, acrobatic dancer Fran Sperling. and dancers Francesca Silvano, Caterina Rago, and Greta Campo.


(The Shepherd's Cantata)

A Neapolitan renaissance Christmas Play

Told by masked character of Commedia dell”Arte, puppets, Archangel Gabriel on stilts, narrated in english by LA BEFANA (the Good Witch of Christmas) featuring Antonio romano on the Italian Bagpipe

Back under popular demand

The play is set just before the birth Christ, during Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, and the devil has dispatched his demons to stop the saviour's birth. Their escapades are entwined with those of Razzullo, one of the Pulcinella masks here depicted as a comic, mischievous Neapolitan scribe to is always hungry. Conjuring up tempests, dragons and other unseemly tricks, the demons try to do away with the play's characters but all are under the Angel Gabriel's protection and the holy couple finally reaches Bethlehem. Before good triumphs over evil, there is an incredible clash, in dance between the archangel and the devil and a grotesque, but humorous, depiction of heaven and hell.

After 7 years the company will revive a new version of this show, as they enter their 31st year anniversary.

FEATURING THE NEAPOLITAN SINGER /ACTOR GIUSEPPE DE FALCO IN THE ROLE OF RAZZULLO the pulcinella character that leads the story of la cantata dei pastori.

artistic director Alessandra Belloni also  in the role , of Mary -mezzo soprano, percussion,

John La Barbera - music Director classical and renaissance folk guitar,  mandolin

- Max Mc Guire - la Befana

-Mark Mindek Archangel Gabriel on stilts

Joe Deninzon – devil, violin - 

Susan Eberenz flute piccolo recorders

 Enrico Granafei, as fisherman/devil

James Karcher - Main devil , sward fighter

Francesca Silvano - dancer, sheperdhess, devil

Sebastian La Barbera - young devil fiddler

 and special children's participation as shepherds and angels


“The Voyage of the Black Madonna” and “Earth, Sun and Moon,”

These productions, comprise a multi-cultural cast. These performances draw parallels between the cultural and musical traditions of Southern Italy with those of Africa, and Latin and Native America. These rituals date back to the ancient cult of the Mother Earth Goddess. We believe that through this unique theatrical experience we can bring different races together and help save humanity from self-destruction. As artists we feel that our work must grow and be dedicated to the most important issues of our age and society. To expand our audience and to convey this message we have reached one of the most visible spaces in New York, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. In this location we have drawn audiences from the Hispanic and African-American Communities of the neighborhood as well as our regular Italian-American audience.

“Stabat Mater: Donna de Paradiso”

This production premiered to a wide audience and critical acclaim during Easter season of 1995 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. In the Italian and Spanish traditions, Passion Plays are represented during Easter, as ritual drama in the form of procession with traditional music and costumes, with actors and statues playing the roles of Mary and Jesus. With its procession of penitents, stations of the cross, ritual music, dance and drama, the “Stabat Mater” provided people of Italian and Hispanic descent, as well the general public, with a meaningful celebration of life and of the Mother.



Upcoming Events


In-Person Dance and Drum Workshops

Information Coming Soon

We will learn the traditional ancient healing trance dance of the tarantella, used to cure the mythical bite of the tarantula, in use for centuries throughout the Mediterranean as music and dance therapy.

We’ll create a community healing ritual as our bodies move in ways that help us to open the energy points and stay grounded. According to what Alessandra observed in her practice and personal experience in teaching healing workshops around the world, “tarantismo” may be defined as depression or sadness caused by unrequited love or abuse. The Pizzica is an ancient form of music and dance therapy.

We will also learn a unique style of traditional Southern Italian frame drum and tambourine playing, including variations of the 4/4 rhythm of the Tammorriata. These rhythms and movements represent an unbroken chain of inspiration and expression of sound and dance, dating back to the rites of the Mother Earth Goddess Cybele, and kept alive into the present. We will learn the history of this powerful tambourine style, traditionally done by women. Empowering women to get in touch with their ancient frame drumming traditions, achieve inner balance and relief of stress while restoring spiritual and physical energy is a major theme of this work.


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