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Ball Pagés, The Traditional Dance of Ibiza

By Nicole Torres

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Introduction

With a stroke of castanets this charming and colourful dance begins. It so primitive that even today the exact origin is unknown, though in June 2012 it was been declared of Important Cultural significance.

In the Ball Pagés of Ibiza and Formentera the man invites the woman to dance by a clack of his castanets. The dancers are all dressed in colourful costumes and depending on the occasion, adorned with spectacular jewels called “emprendadas”.

Ball Pagés

The “ball pages” is the name that designates the set of traditional dances of the Balearic Islands. They are dances belonging to rural society whose common feature is a clear differentiation between the roles of men and women.

The woman, with a submissive attitude, arms collected in the body, stares at the floor and not the dancer, while she moves with very short, quick steps going in circles within which man acts.

The man, however, has no predetermined steps and dances doing big jumps and throwing his legs up in the air, trying to follow the dancer’s gaze; but should never turn his back on the female.

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“sa llarga”, however, has a stronger air about it, a dance in which the dancer evolves doing big jumps

The music that accompanies the dance is performed by the “sonador” (sounder, he who makes noise) with the drum and the “flaüta” (flute), and male dancers with “castanyoles” (castanets).

Traditionally, dances were held in the lodges, coinciding with major collective tasks, such as matanzas (the day a home would sacrifice a pig to make sobrasadas, butifarras, etc, where neighbours and friends come to help. These are still held nowadays), shelling corn, etc.

Clues to Origin

The origin of our dances is unknown, although some of its characteristics (a circle) and the intense ritualism make us think that they may be of ancient origin. The Christian influence may be the strongest, but pagan dances are easily recognisable, especially the dances around wells and springs. All these dances near wells and springs were initiated by San Juan. They coincided with the celebration of the summer solstice and stretched throughout the summer.

These dances could be related to a possible ancient water cult, which eventually became a match for different Christian festivals: San Juan, San Pedro, San Jaime, Santa Maria or San Ciriaco.

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The man, has no predetermined steps and dances doing big jumps and throwing his legs up in the air,

The Dance

The execution of the dances varies considerably from one village to another on our islands. There are mainly four types of dances; “sa curta” (the short one), “sa llarga” (the long one), “sa filera” (the line) and “ses nou (or dotze) rodades” (the nine –or twelve- laps).

Furthermore, in all spontaneously organised dances there existed a hierarchy. First, there was always a man in charge of organising the dance and bringing order in case of confrontation between the younger men.

Es que porta es ball

The name as they are known, usually, is “es que porta es ball” (the one carrying the dance), and was present at all dances. He was in charge of taking out the first dancer to do the first dance, which used to be “sa curta”.

It was once considered a privilege to be the first to dance and used to give priority to the girl who had cleaned and decorated around the well where they danced, owners of the well or the land where dance was held, and, specifically, in the case of being in a private home, priority was given to the single girl, with her boyfriend, or a brother.

Once “es que porta es ball” had brought the first dancer out, another young man could dance with her and so on. Meanwhile the second dancer was asked to the ‘dance floor’ and so it continued until all the girls present had danced. They used to be very strict with this rule, and all the boys danced with all the girls.

Boys Will Be Boys

When the dancing had begun, the time the dances lasted was taken into strict account, especially among young men who courted the same girl. If it was thought that a young man had danced more than the stipulated time with a woman, it could cause some argument or even a fight.

“Es que porta es ball” had to take care of resolving conflicts among the younger men, acting as responsible for everything that happened. Once the dance had run its course, it was also up to him to decide when it was time to finish.

To end, he asked the first girl with whom he had danced at the beginning and they danced “sa curta”.

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the “sonador” (sounder, he who makes noise) with the drum and the “flaüta” (flute),

Sa curta, Sa llarga and Sa filera.

With regard to the rhythmic variations of the dance, two paces coincide with the two main types of dance are distinguished: “sa curta” and “sa llarga”.

Sa curta is a dance in which the elder begins the cycle of dances; “sa llarga”, however, has a stronger air about it, a dance in which the dancer evolves doing big jumps and fast turns, towards and away from the female dancer, who slides into ever larger circles.

A variant of “sa llarga” is the dance called “sa filera” in which a man dances with more than one female dancer.

Ses dotze rodades

Another dance is “ses dotze rodades”, also called “ses nou rodades”. It is a dance of great ritual strength, in which the dancers make a series of symmetrical turns toward and away from each other. When they meet in the centre, they join by the elbows and from the sixth turn or “rodada”, the two dancers carry their arms bent with their hands at chest height. In this dance the man does not jump, but slides similarly to women.

Glossary

Ses nou (or) dotze rodades : ‘The nine or 12 rotations’ A slow, ritual, dance

Sa curta : ‘the short one’. dance (start and end of the dancing)

Sa llarga : ‘the long one’ energetic dance, including high kicks

Sa filera : ‘the line’ dance where on man is with more than one woman

Rodada : turn or circle

Ball Pagés : Collective name for all the traditional dances.

Sonador : The ‘sounder’ playing the drum and flute

Flaüta : Flute

Es que porta es ball : The (male) organiser of the dancer.

Castanyoles : Castanets

Emprendadas : The jewels worn by women dancers.

I hope you enjoyed my introduction to Ball Pagés.  You can see this dance represented during all the town fiestas of the island and at many other celebrations. There are many dancing “collas” in which you will see people of all ages keeping this unique tradition.

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