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The Royal Ballet

George Balanchine’s exuberant pas de deux is full of swagger, charm and ballet brilliance.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Tarantella. It was last on stage 18–31 May 2017 as part of the Winter 2016/17 season.


A couple dance an exuberant pas de deux, loosely inspired by itinerant southern Italian dancers, that melds exacting classical technique with good-natured charm.


George Balanchine created Tarantella in 1964, as a pas de deux to show off the virtuoso talents of New York City Ballet dancers Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. He used music by the New Orleans-born composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, now relatively little known but in his day widely celebrated for his cheerful and energetic style. Gottschalk in turn took inspiration from the popular ‘tarantella’ dance, said to derive from southern Italy and long popular for its lively rhythms and exuberant energy.

Balanchine’s choreography for Tarantella places great demands on its dancers, who have an opportunity to show off their speed, precision and athleticism. But there’s more than just technique on display here, as amid the pyrotechnics Balanchine mixes in witty, cheeky steps to create a sense of open-hearted, good natured fun. As Balanchine put it, ‘It is a dazzling display piece, full of speed and high spirits’.

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