The “Cordella” dance is a re-enactment of ancient peasant traditions, of pre-Christian origin.
The traditional pantomime takes place in Petralia Sottana (Palermo) and is a choreographic show of thanksgiving to Nature staged to ensure a good harvest of wheat. It is a propitiatory rite for the fertility of the earth of pagan origin which later merged into the religious celebrations in honor of the Madonna dell’Alto in Petralia Sottana.
There are numerous testimonies that tell the practice of dance and pantomime in primitive contexts with propitiatory purposes; country dances and pantomimes were in fact performed by the community to honor the divinities in the seasonal festivals. The festival was originally linked to the ritual calendar of the seasons and the summer solstice. Today, like many traditional festivals, the event is held on the first Sunday after August 15, to involve more people among the tourists and the local population who have emigrated to other areas of Italy.
In the past, the ancient rite began with a wedding procession that moved from the main square of the town: a newly wed couple opened the procession followed by bridesmaids and relatives; followed by 12 couples of dancers dressed in traditional clothes who closed the wedding procession. The dance took place in a threshing floor, the space used for threshing the grain, where a few sacks of grain and sheaves of ears had been placed. The couples arranged themselves in a radial pattern around a 2-metre high pole decorated with multicolored ribbons. After an opening prayer of the ritual, the group leader, originally the father of the bride, started the dance by inviting the couples to dance.
The twelve couples of dancers symbolize the 12 months of the Gregorian year and dance around the pole (symbol of the tree) surmounted by ears of wheat and decorated with ribbons of various colors, which intertwine in dance movements to symbolize the seasons or the constellations that revolve around the sun, master of fertility and rural life. The movements of the dance recall the movements of agricultural work, such as sowing, germination, harvesting, bread. The dance is a tribute to the young spouses so that their union is fruitful with offspring, well-being and joy.



Buttitta I. E., I morti e il grano. Tempi del lavoro e ritmi della festa, Meltemi, Roma, 2006
Li Puma, S., Il ballo della cordella: il magico collante delle proprie tradizioni, Arianna, Geraci Siculo, 2005
Federico, M., Il ballo pantomima della cordella a Petralia Sottana, La Zisa, Palermo, 2007
Federico, M., Il corteo nuziale e il ballo pantomima della Cordella: storia, cultura e tradizione a Petralia Sottana, Regione Sicilia, Assessorato dei beni culturali, ambientali e della Pubblica istruzione, Dipartimento dei beni culturali, ambientali e dell'educazione permanente, Palermo, 2008
REI - Libro delle espressioni - Ballo della cordella