A Pinch Of Saltarello

Things To Know MendelssohnDance and movement activities inspired by the 4th movement Saltarello in Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.


  • The Saltarello was a medieval dance popular in Rome, and then used in carnivals around Italy. Mendelssohn is said to have seen and heard a saltarello in Italy on his travels there in the 19th century, and it inspired him to compose his own saltarello for this “Italian” Symphony.


  • We’re going to dance a saltarello to this music. It will be like a country dance where you have to dance with a partner or group with steps to learn.
  • Let’s get used to the speed and the music first with some….
  • Dance warm-ups:

Things to know ItalianFeel the beat. This saltarello has quite a quick beat. Put the music on and move in time with the beat. Use different parts of your body and feel the beat. Move around the room in time. Incorporate a turn here and there, but whatever you do keep in time and feel the beat.

Step Step Step Hop. Do this: step step step hop step step step hop. The feet you should be on for these steps are RLRRLRLL. Do it slowly to start with, then gradually speed up to the speed of the music. This is the basic step we’re going to use for a lot of our saltarello. Join with a partner and dance the saltarello steps while moving along side by side. You should also hold hands with the held hands raised to about the height of your shoulder. Your spare hand should be raised out to the side, gracefully.

This is the saltarello dancing position.

Little Leaps. The word saltarello means in Italian “little leaps”. We’re going to have some leaping in our saltarello. Leap along to the music – I think you’ll have to go at half the speed of the beat for your leaps, so one leap every two beats. Make each leap different. Choose your favourite leap and do it eight times on the trot, then do a mixture of eight.

Things To Know ItalySpin Twirl Turn. If you look at paintings of medieval Italians dancing they do a lot of spinning, twirling and turning. Spin, turn and twirl along with the music. Seeing as you’re not medieval Italians, try spinning on your backs, tummies, bottoms as well as the usual feet. Can you think of other turns and spins. Try and altar your height while you’re spinning or turning. Twirl with a partner. What new spinning, twirling, turning moves can you make now you have a partner?

Strip the willow. In a circle with partner – outer partner facing one way, inner partner facing the other. Head off round the circle turning round next partner with alternate hands starting with right hand, keep going until you end up back at your own partner.

  • Ok now we’re ready to put all our ideas together in a group dance. You need a partner to dance with, you need to stand beside each other in the saltarello dancing position. This chart has all the steps and moves to follow. You may have to adapt the timings if your recording is longer or shorter than 5 minutes 25 seconds. Good luck and remember that this is a carnival dance so no frowning – only joyful exuberance.

Things To Know Symphony

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