Forever connected with dance

On occasion, setting foot on strange lands can be a visceral experience. That first feeling of skin making contact with earth can send a ripple of excitement coursing through the body. There’s the enticing hint of being in uncharted territory but also an inescapable sense of feeling like you’re home – a thrillingly appealing contradiction. For many years, this is how all kinds of settlers have described their landings on the shores of Ibiza. A small Balearic island in the Mediterranean Sea, it seemed to cast an unbreakable spell on new arrivals, weaving a kind of magic that danced its way into their souls.

Many suggestions have been made to explain this phenomenon throughout the centuries. Some said it was the magnetic pull of Es Vedrà, the rocky island that juts out of the seabed on the south west coast of the island, and birthplace of the goddess Tanit. Others claimed it was the natural beauty of the landscape, its pine-clad hills and sparkling diamond waters radiating positive energy. But many looked to the Egyptian demi-god Bes, who the Phoenicians named the island after. ‘Ibossim’, the island’s original name, means ‘island of Bes’, and it’s this deity’s omnipotent influence that supposedly charmed, and continues to charm, explorers.

Bes was worshipped as the god of mothers, children and childbirth – but more importantly, in relation to Ibiza – he was also known as the god of dance, music, and fun, elements that combined thousands of years ago to make the island unique; qualities that to this day mean Ibiza is known throughout the world as the place where the party never stops, where anyone and everyone is welcome to dance arm in arm beneath a sky blanketed with stars. This unique alchemy of ingredients makes Ibiza irresistible, especially to those with music in their blood, who can’t help but move to the beat.

"Ibiza is known throughout the world as the place where the party never stops, where anyone and everyone is welcome to dance"

Consequently, Ibiza has a long history connected with dance. Nowadays, it’s a vital component of the island’s lifeblood, with dancefloors full at clubs across the island every night of the week. But the heritage of primal movement stretches back much further than that and to this day traces of Ibiza’s love affair with movement can be seen on the streets – you just need to know where to look for it. Those who do are rewarded with a rich display of tradition, or as locals call it, Ball Pagès in full flow, often in front of a church or up within the walls of Dalt Vila.

Ball Pagès is also known as the peasant’s dance. The traditional folkloric performance of Ibiza and Formentera, its origins are unknown, and yet it’s an ancient reminder of the island’s dedication to dance and music. It also serves as a form of courtship. Men, dressed all in white bar for a red cloth belt and red woolen cap or barretina, grab the women’s attention with a strong crack of castanets that they hold in each hand. And then they dance, seeming to skip over the surface of the floor, interspersed with high kicks and hops in a display of pomp and parade.

The women meanwhile, wear typical peasant dress, with long skirts and scarves tied round their heads. They’re also adorned in opulent jewellery, most notably an emprendada – a necklace with filigree decoration, a cross, a glass medallion, and a series of glistening gold rings. In contrast to the men they cut a demure figure, weaving round their partner in a figure of eight with small flicks of the feet, and then curtseying before returning to the outer rim of the circle in which they’ve performed.

"THE BALL PAGÈS IS A RICH DISPLAY OF TRADITION"

Music accompanies the entire performance, with drum and flute providing beat and melody, although rhythm is dictated by the type of dance taking place. There’s sa curta, for instance (the short one) always started by the elder of the group, and sa llarga (the long one), which involves grander gestures of movement and fast turns towards and away from the female dancer. Each dance differs slightly depending on where you are on the island, but time taken in the spotlight is noted closely – spend too long trying to impress one love interest and fisticuffs may well ensue.

During summer, this archaic but charming display can be seen every Thursday at 9 pm in the church courtyard of the small village of San Miguel. Much like dance itself, it’s a tradition that’s stood the test of time and continues to remind us of Ibiza’s rich and tapestried past while tying us intrinsically to the present. It’s an island that danced into existence; an island that possesses an irrepressible desire to move. Set foot here for the first time and you might see exactly what we mean.

"THE FOLKLORIC DANCE can be seen every thursday evening in the village of san miguel"

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