Ball Pagès, peasant dance in Ibicenco
One of Ibiza’s most authentic and typical traditions that has survived until nowadays, are the traditional dances “ball pagès“, peasant dance in Ibicenco, a clear sign of Ibicenco popular culture and folklore and everything around it, not only the dance itself, but the musical instruments, the songs and the traditional costumes and dresses. During the celebrations of the different villages of the island is common to see demonstrations of this traditional dance in the front porch of the churches and around old water wells. In Ibiza today there are some 20 folk dance groups called collas whose aim is to revive the lapse in the island’s indigenous culture. Colla members don the traditionally dress of generations past, produce music with 4 or 5 age-old instruments and follow, literally, in the footsteps that their forebears have traced since time immemorial.
To really understand Ibicenco folk dancing, its origin, its evolution and its role in present-day island society, one must travel back to the Middles Ages (spanning both the Islamic and the Christian cultures) when Ibiza was primarily an agricultural society. Island inhabitants had few distractions apart from the sowing and reaping of farm life and, for centuries, xocotes, or informal fiestas, provided a social framework for human interaction and celebration. Xocotes were generally spontaneous rural gatherings where Ibicencos found joyous release from their drudgery through popular song and dance. The inevitable encroachment of modern life that came with tourism brought about an abrupt shift from the agrarian-based economy of yore to a fast-paced, business-oriented economy. In the space of 20 years, the island’s social structures and daily customs were drastically altered.
We could describe it in a few words that the man invites the woman to dance playing hard the castanets. The dancers dress colourful costumes and typical jewelry called emprendadas.
The most common ball pagès dances are:
1: “Sa Curta” (the Short One in Ibicenco). The one used to open the celebration and was danced by the owner of the water well, by the heir of the house or by the bride’s parents in law, depending on what they were celebrating or the kind of event. It doesn’t last very long and the music rhythm and the steps are kind of slow. More suitable for the older people.
2: “Sa Llarga” (The Long one). The male dancer chooses the female with a hard castanets sound. The music lasts longer and its rhythm is faster. This way the young ones could show their energy and strength. At the end of this dance the man kneels in front of the lady excusing his boldness and she responds with a bow.
There are many more types, yet “Ses nou rodades” (The nine couples) is the most important one and possibly the nicest ball pagès dance in Ibiza. A wedding ceremony, in which nine different engaged couples perform the dance at the same time, unlike the other styles in which the man always chooses the lady. The man goes around the lady, then the lady steps away and then they meet again in the centre. From the sixth circle the man does around the lady, she shows her 24 rings which previously the man gave the bride as a gift.
And the musical instruments that are always used to play the ball pagès dance music are: the castanets, made out of juniper and with a large size, a drum, a flute, an Espasí, which is a percussion metal instrument that reminds of a sword and which is played with a metal bar and it sounds like a musical triangle or like the also typical xeremia (the flageolet), which aren’t used for the dance yet is a wind instrument very typical in Ibiza, which was used by the shepherds and also for music improvisations.